Bridging the Gender Gap for Enhanced Healthcare Solutions
The psychedelic industry is gaining momentum and attracting passionate individuals who see the potential for profound healing and transformation. However, there is a glaring disparity within this burgeoning industry: it is primarily being led and shaped by men. With 91% of leadership roles held by men, there is a significant underrepresentation of women in the decision-making process.
This gender imbalance becomes concerning when we consider that many of the conditions targeted by psychedelic therapies disproportionately affect women. Mental illnesses, such as depression, are more prevalent among women, and they are also more likely to experience trauma, sexual harassment, and PTSD. Furthermore, specific women’s health issues, such as post-partum depression, sexual dysfunction, and eating disorders, are areas where psychedelic treatment shows promise. It is evident that women’s needs and perspectives are not adequately represented in the current trajectory of the industry. To ensure effective and inclusive healthcare solutions, it is imperative to address this gender gap and actively involve women in the leadership and decision-making processes of the psychedelic industry.
For individuals involved in the psychedelic industry, it is natural to become engrossed in the daily intricacies of constructing the necessary infrastructure to facilitate psychedelic treatment. However, it’s important to remember the main goal of the industry: to help patients. And in this case, a large number of future patients seeking psychedelic treatment will likely be women.
It is difficult to predict the exact demographics that will be serviced by future psychedelic clinics. Currently, we only have marketing data on a small, but growing number of ketamine clinics, and even that data has been somewhat surprising in regard to who is seeking out psychedelic medicines. It is clear, however, that the issues that psychedelic companies are addressing disproportionately affect women.
Since women are more likely to seek medical treatment than men are, there may be some variation in those statistics, but, it doesn’t change the fact that many women are clearly in dire need of psychedelic treatment, yet are underrepresented.
With men predominantly governing the industry, women’s issues are being pushed to the back. This is obvious with the pending approval of MDMA treatment for PTSD. Women are twice as likely to experience PTSD as men, yet we hear more about the use of this treatment for Veterans, who are predominately men.
This is not to say that helping the men who fought for freedom heal is any less important; in fact, that is the very point. All people who could benefit from this treatment should be represented equally, and considering that women are going to be a major target market in the psychedelic industry, it would be beneficial to actually understand their needs.
MindCure is a perfect example of a company focused on addressing women’s needs without proper input from women. The company’s Desire Project is developing a psychedelic treatment for low sexual desire in women. It would be reasonable to assume that the company has at least one woman in their leadership team to develop the company’s strategy around treating the intimate needs of women, yet the entire team is made up of men.
The problem is not that the men in the industry do not care about addressing the specific needs of women. In fact, as a female writer in the industry, I have had the pleasure of speaking with many of the men that I share the space with, and they are caring human beings who are passionate about making a difference. However, people tend to focus on the issues that they feel directly connected to. In addition, it is impossible for men to fully understand the needs of women, which is why we need more women in the space. It is clear that the result of the psychedelic industry being run by men is an industry that is designed for men.
Now, there is actually a fairly logical reason for the large gender gap in leadership in the psychedelic sector. The fact of the matter is that women and men generally tend to be attracted to different types of work. Of course, there are people of both genders in all occupations, however, women do tend to be more attracted to positions that require the nurturing essence of the feminine. For example, 88.9% of registered nurses and 80.5% of elementary and middle school teachers are women. On the other hand, women account for only 18.7% of software developers, 27% of scientists and engineers, and 27.6% of chief executives. Also, in 2019 57.4% of women in the US were in the labor force, while 69.2% of men were working— the pandemic led to even more women leaving the workforce.
With all of those statistics in mind, it is reasonable to expect that there would be a higher percentage of men working in the psychedelic sector than women. Many of the roles currently available in the industry are in science, law, and leadership— all occupations that tend to be favored by men. However, that still doesn’t account for the 91% of leadership roles being occupied by men, and this will likely have negative effects on the industry long term.
There is a greater percentage of women stepping into the role of psychedelic therapist or practitioner— compared to other roles in the industry, but in order to address the needs of female patients, there needs to be a greater representation of women in leadership roles. This points to another issue that we have seen in the general healthcare sector for years: the lack of communication between providers and the leadership at pharmaceutical and healthcare companies.
It is no secret that the healthcare sector has failed on many fronts— that’s precisely why so many people are passionate about what psychedelics bring to the table. One of the big issues is the lack of connection between leadership and patient needs— just ask anyone who works in a hospital or corporate-owned doctor’s office. If the psychedelic industry hopes to create a new kind of healthcare, this issue will need to be addressed now, while the infrastructure is forming. One way to do that is to include women in the big decisions that are shaping the industry.
Many of these big decisions are being made by lawyers, lawmakers, and executives, which are all positions not generally favored by women. It is precisely this structure of decision-making that has caused disconnection in US healthcare; both men and women need to make an effort to increase the variety of ideas being heard in the decision-making process. This will help the industry develop its programs to meet the needs of a major target market— women.
Increased participation of women would be highly beneficial in shaping ethics and treatment protocols within the psychedelic industry. Women possess a natural sensitivity to the nuances of human emotion, which is crucial when designing treatment spaces and protocols. Furthermore, programs tailored by women are more likely to effectively address the specific needs of female patients. Therefore, involving women in the development process of treatments primarily serving women would lead to improved patient outcomes.
Psychedelics affect people in ways we don’t completely understand yet, however, it is widely agreed among the scientific community that set and setting have a huge influence on the effectiveness of psychedelic therapy. Utilizing women to help design the standards for how the treatment spaces are set up and how facilitators interact and support their patients would have positive effects on the overall outcomes of treatment.
To enhance industry outcomes, there are multiple avenues to include women in the decision-making process. First, it’s important for women to take an active role and contribute to shaping the industry, which many are already doing.
Psychedelic advocate and businesswoman Sonia Singer recently launched the Celebrating Women in Psychedelics to help women in the industry network, mentor each other, find funding for business endeavors, and find a way to break into the industry. It’s an incredible community that gives women the support they need to make their mark on the future of psychedelic medicine.
The online community is creating an environment that will increase women’s influence in the psychedelic industry, but it’s not quite enough. Addressing this issue requires a collaborative effort from both men and women.
In the quest for transformative healing through psychedelics, it is important to recognize and address the gender disparities prevalent in the industry. Women represent a significant target market for psychedelic therapies, yet are severely underrepresented in leadership and decision-making roles, which inhibits the industry’s ability to effectively address these issues.
By incorporating more women into positions of power and influence, the industry can foster a greater understanding of women’s needs and experiences. Women’s voices and perspectives are crucial for developing tailored treatment approaches and establishing ethical protocols that resonate with female patients.
Initiatives such as the Celebrating Women in Psychedelics Network are already promoting collaboration, mentorship, and support for women in the industry, but it is imperative that both men and women come together to create a collaborative environment that values and empowers women in the psychedelic space. By weaving the feminine into the fabric of the industry, we can ensure that psychedelic medicine evolves in a way that truly meets the diverse needs of patients, ultimately leading to improved outcomes and a more inclusive healthcare system.