Developing Medical Technology: How Women Can Succeed in the Boys' Club, Dr. Kathryn Stecco of Panthera MedTech Provides Tips for Women Entrepreneurs

Share Article

Dr. Kathryn Stecco with Panthera MedTech notes that the climate for women has been especially challenging in the medical technology field, which is dominated by men. However she recommends that women who have an entrepreneurial instinct consider the burgeoning field of medical technology.

Dr. Kathryn Stecco

For women, working for yourself provides the freedom to do more than one thing and to develop flexibility that works best for them. Medical technology offers opportunities to do just that while fostering change that benefits society in a tangible way.

The gender gap in technology companies has been well documented. While women are counted in higher numbers in areas such as human resources, public relations and administration, in most technology companies they account for fewer than 25% of the engineering positions that are most likely to lead to senior roles. And if women have a long way to go in rising to the top of the corporate hierarchy, their presence as founders of technology start-ups lags even more. According to a 2013 study , female entrepreneurs start only 3% of technology companies. Explanations range from speculation that women are more averse to risk to the difficulty of obtaining financing in the predominantly male venture capital community. "The climate for women has been especially challenging in the medical technology field, which is dominated by men," says Dr. Kathryn Stecco, a physician and medical device entrepreneur who has led and consulted on several successful company acquisitions. "I believe in equality. Hard work, intelligence and mental strength are not gender dependent."

Despite the obstacles, more women than ever before are starting businesses – and succeeding. Research has shown that women excel in situations that call for collaboration and consensus-building. In fact, the 2013 study showed that private technology companies led by women are more capital-efficient, achieve higher return on investment, and, when venture-backed, bring in more revenue than male-owned tech companies.*

Dr. Stecco recommends that women who have an entrepreneurial instinct consider the burgeoning field of medical technology. "Entrepreneurs think outside the box and are willing to take calculated risks and create their own path," she says. "For women, working for yourself provides the freedom to do more than one thing and to develop flexibility that works best for them. Medical technology offers opportunities to do just that while fostering change that benefits society in a tangible way."

Dr. Stecco's tips for women considering entrepreneurial initiatives in medical technology are both strategic and practical:

  •     Start with a big market problem: Market is everything. Big acquisitions are supported by big need markets.
  •     Pursue a practical solution: Dr. Stecco argues that the emphasis should be on products that are safe and are capable of producing meaningful clinical data according to their design specifications. Medical technologies that work produce data that speaks for itself. No spin is necessary. Doctors are notoriously busy. If a technology isn't easy to use and doesn't make their lives easier, they won't use it. Further, if a technology is not friendly for the patient, their compliance will diminish.
  •     Build relationships – early – with clinicians: "It's critical to get out in the field, to develop close ties with physicians, and to get their input early in the design process. Just because you can get a patent and engineer a technology does not mean there is a need for it and/or that physicians will accept it in their practice."
  •     Change "game plans" when necessary: It isn't unusual for entrepreneurs to become so invested in an idea or product that they are blind to problems that will prevent its success. Entrepreneurs need to have creative plasticity that allows them to abandon an idea if it isn't working out and move on to a better game plan. The goal is to get results. Do not allow your business to turn into a research project!
  •     Embrace Adversity: Adversity is fuel for the entrepreneurial mind. ‘I do not believe you can learn to become an entrepreneur by sitting in a classroom. People either have the work ethic and mental fortitude or they don’t. You have to enjoy the hustle, the uncertainly, the no days off.

Finally, Dr. Stecco encourages women with a medical background seeking opportunities in technology to consider the wide range of directions available to them in addition to founding a company: they can work in finance or law, consult, become a Chief Medical Officer, work at a small start-up or a large corporation. Paradigm shifts in our healthcare system are disruptive. Therefore, opportunities exist to evolve. If you do not like the way things are being done, go start your own company.

*“Women in Technology: Evolving, Ready to Save the World,” 2013, Vivek Wadhwa and Lesa Mitchell

Kathryn Stecco, M.D., co-founder and chief medical officer of Panthera MedTech, has more than 15 years of experience as a surgeon and consultant to medical technology start-ups.

Panthera MedTech is a partnership that focuses on founding new companies in the areas of mobile health, medical device, biotechnology and health information technologies.

Share article on social media or email:

View article via:

Pdf Print

Contact Author

Melissa Chefec
MCPR, LLC
+1 (203) 968-6625
Email >
Visit website