Women: Getting it Done (Part 1)

Summary: Women. We’re responsible for patient autonomy & health care.

I don’t think half of us realize just how essential we are, how we’re responsible unknowingly most times for things that are simply daily routines (health care falls in to that). Growing up with feminist parents (although I guarantee my father wouldn’t know it) I observed the natural growth of responsibilities of the wife and the husband in the household. The roles were reversed, my father shouldered the normal duties my mother “should” have taken. Granted dinner would always be cooked in massive portions, in university fashion, but I grew up healthily. While my parents were powerhouses together, my father has become a powerhouse himself and I have him to thank for a great great deal.

My mother ran a hospital for LakeRidge Health in Port Perry, Ontario and I have her to thank for much of my views/knowledge of the health care system. The amalgamation of my mother’s work and my father’s natural feminism created four strong and independent daughters (I am one of them). Due to their partnership, my mindset was always outside of normality, and it’s no wonder.

I digress. 


This post is on power, and how women have it in spades when it comes to (more than one) but mainly one  important issue fought and coveted in the world: health care.

Yes, we have the power over the panty, whether it stays on or off. Yes we have the power of raising hell, to stand up for ourselves, to run in marathons that were only meant for one gender, to love deeply and connect to most on an emotional level and to be the first to surprise where unexpected. Because that is what women are, we are unexpected and we set the bar damn high.

Let me shift the focus just a tad here and say quite frankly that it is impossible to understand the future of health care and patient autonomy without taking into account gender issues. When it comes to health care, women run the show.


Here is how it started: today, while perusing through an article published in 2001 by the AMA, Marketing Health Services, I learned that women are the target of most marketing strategies in health care. In 2001, they were found to control the decision making process in regards to health care choices. Interesting… 

Why? Let’s ponder a moment. If children and the husband are the primary responsibility of a wife, then along with that comes health. If the woman cooks and keeps the children alive then health care decisions obviously fall into that laundry basket of “to dos”.

Does this still hold true today?

Simple quick answer: yes. An article published in September of 2013 by National Partnership.org detailing the Affordable Care Act, stated that “women are the health care decision makers in the country; they make 80% of the health care decisions in the family…”  As you can see from the graphic blow we have steadily grown in our purchasing power in online retail as well as electronics as well as deciding how to spend funds in regards to health care.

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Source: http://content.time.com/time/interactive/0,31818,2031700,00.html

Intrigued was I, so I dug a bit deeper. Marketing companies know that women make the healthcare decisions so they market to women. How? Some think this means simply adding Pink, but women aren’t fooled by mere colour additions. So marketers suggest to be subtle in your strategies, include photographs and remember to be gender neutral. 

It has become evident that women also  dominate the health care industry. We women, make up 80% of the health care  industry as practitioners, this is the case in both the United States and Canada. This carries over into home health care. But this is nothing new, no, odds are one of the first things you did when you got sick was tell your mom.

My ThoughtsScreen Shot 2016-03-03 at 10.16.16 AM.png

Let’s tie it all together. Women: 80% of the health care decision makers. Women: make up 80% of the health care industry. Health Care marketing targets women. Now, you’re thinking, “Tricia, tell me something new.” Dare I speak too soon? Okay, this is the new, sexy bit. The bit where I’ll (hopefully) blow your mind. Here I go:

According to a book review of An Unfinished Revolution: Women and Health Care in America, published by  The New England Journal of Medicine, in 1970, women made up 9% of the medical students, compared to 40% of the gender make-up today. Women are stepping in to the hospital governance system, becoming policy makers and representing the patient more than in the past.

As this is a blog mainly aimed at manifesting awareness about patient autonomy and gender issues separately, this topic marries the two. The main takeaway from the above being that not only are women stepping into control of the hospitals but we are also the main practitioners, we have the power to make 1) the change regarding patient autonomy in the health care system and 2) forging a new foundation for women to stand upon (to be addressed in a follow-up post).

  1. The Change: Tricia mentions this constantly, what on earth does she mean?
    • We say patient autonomy but so many haven’t a clue what it means. Quite simply it is the right for patients to make decisions about their health care without their healthcare provider influencing them. The practitioners job is to present the information in a way that allows the patient to understand, but to ultimately make the final decision. This ALSO means therefore, that patients need to have the knowledge and understanding of health care. For example, a patient not wanting to deal with the headache of surgery without knowing that it will save their life, is an uniformed patient.
    • Considering the above, patients must be encouraged to ask questions.
    • Is that the case? No, quite frankly. Practitioners lack the understanding that their relationships with their patients could help or hinder the decision making process.
    • The very simple fact that women are now stepping in to regulate the industry is HUGE. The solution is simple. Women, we are now the bridge. There is an immense gap of knowledge between the practitioner and the patient and it is our job the fill the gap.
    • HOW? With a simple concept known as relational thinking as documented in an article published in the Journal of Internal Medicine. The article, titled “Supporting Patient Autonomy: The Importance of Clinician-Patient Relationships”, recounts the essential use of understanding both sides of a patient/doctor conversation.
    • Do you see the connection here?
    • healthcare
      Women make up much of the health care system, and they as practitioners (this includes all facets of administering health care), through relational thinking, inform their patients of the meanings behind “health care” advertisements. Women are therefore the whistle-blowers in health care.

      In conclusion:

      Women: we can do it and we are getting it done. Women: we’ve got to continue being the change agents. Women: we have an immense amount of power, let’s remember to wield it wisely, let’s bring about conscious change in the health care system. Not only are we responsible for the success of certain health advertisements because they are marketed towards us, but we’re responsible to encourage patient autonomy through relational thinking.  


There you have it. A simple foray into my mind and how it works, and this is just one point..I’ve just scratching the surface. There is more, so much more and I’m itching to write it out, but alas the human mind only takes in snippets of information. And I’d truly love to take time to discuss what’d been written before I write about my second point.

What you can do until Part 2:

  1. Read about patient autonomy, learn about donating blood and learning to ask the relevant questions to your health care practitioner.
  2. Engage in an active discourse, comment, share, criticize (constructively)
  3. Sharing is caring (pretty please).
  4. Reach out to me, I don’t bite on Thursdays and Fridays (I’m kidding).



  1. https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/evolution-the-self/200904/the-testosterone-curse-part-1
  2. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2881979/#CR3
  3. https://www.chausa.org/docs/default-source/health-progress/book-review—an-unfinished-revolution-women-and-health-care-in-america-pdf.pdf?sfvrsn=0
  4. http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJM199505183322018
  5. http://www.nationalpartnership.org/research-library/health-care/aca-enrollment-event-toolkit.pdf



9 thoughts on “Women: Getting it Done (Part 1)

  1. I can say from working in the production field directly with several healthcare groups that 95% of the time it is for sure a woman who is in the power position of the hospital or hospital groups we create advertising for. And they always have a better eye for what works as a draw from a marketing and advertising perspective over the men I’ve encountered in those same positions. And it’s not even necessarily that they make the ads more female oriented, they just have a better touch than most of the male execs do. They can introduce a friendly and warm atmosphere into ad campaigns that would normally be cold, dreary, and empty when left in the hands of the other gender. And beyond that just a general observation when I’m on those sets is like stated here, women populate the healthcare system on all levels from hospital presidents, to practioners, and middle class staff. I’m not sure I’ve added to this conversation at all as opposed to back it up, but here are my two cents!

    1. You have indeed added! I’m grateful for your two cents. There is an good amount of truth and knowledge to your statement, in regards to women running the show so to speak. Women are now the front runners when it comes to health care and it behooves us to set an altogether new standard for all practitioners and most importantly, become that “warmth and encouraging presence” towards patients. Increase the knowledge out there and perhaps the whole system will improve.

  2. It’s awesome that the percent of women in medical school has jumped from 9% to 40%! I’m curious if there are any policy shifts in that time or proposed policies moving forward that can help continue to foster that growth. As women not only make up the majority of the healthcare system, but all strata of the system, I’m sure we’ll find ourselves much closer to the vision you’ve outlined above!

    1. That is an excellent point! I’m sure that there are different policies out there, I’ll definitely do more research for a follow up in regards to the changes in platforms and policies regards to women stepping into the forefront of health care.

  3. very very very insightful Tricia, a new reality has just stricken me, these proportions are just epic and speak eloquently on the power of women on solving this knowledge gap and helping patients becoming truly autonomous

    1. Thank you for your comment Amadou! It is something that needs to be discussed, not only in regards to gender issues and power, but also in regards to the quality of health care available. As I’d mentioned to TJ above, if we increase the knowledge and encourage questions, perhaps the entirety of the health care system will improve.

  4. Amazing read with striking revelations! Women are indeed the warp and woof of healthcare systems. Looking forward to the next installment.

    1. Thank you for your comment Eric!! Warp and woof is an excellent phrase and for every woman taking hold of the reigns there is a man there to support and partner with her. This is where it’s at. I’m writing the next instalment as we speak!

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