Creating a more inclusive healthcare ecosystem with Sarah Hughes

March 10, 2023

On 12 May 2022, Sarah Hughes – participated in Talking Health Tech’s Autumn Summit to discuss sustainable strategies to that contribute to more diversity and inclusivity in healthcare, and especially within digital health. 

Moderated by Dr Magdalena Simionis from the Australian Federation of Medical Women, Sarah joined a panel with the CEO of UPagedZara Lord – and Jodie Granger, the Executive Director of Grangeford, for a discussion on: 

  • What are the current barriers to equity in digital health? 
  • What long term considerations can be implemented to bridge the gap in representation in health tech? 
  • What can leaders do to encourage diversity in the health technology sector? 

At the centre of the panel discussion was a call to action for organisations to better understand what barriers exist in creating a more inclusive healthcare ecosystem and how removing the barriers can result in diversity and innovation of ideas, producing better healthcare outcomes. 


Identifying challenges in creating an inclusive healthcare ecosystem  

Sarah’s focus on the panels was on the importance of diversity of mentorship to support the next generation of health leaders, across genders, cultures and backgrounds. Research has shown that role models that people can relate to – as we outlined in our previous article – is an important factor to increasing diversity in the tech sector especially.  

Sarah discussed three key actions we can take to address diversity of mentorship in healthcare by encouraging, preparing and platforming more women in health. 


How can we support diversity within organisations? Sarah suggested using positive reinforcements and encouraging women – and everyone – to seek the possibilities and opportunities in healthcare and digital health.  

“Investing in the leadership development of young women early can really encourage them to not only join, but importantly flourish in the healthcare ecosystem,” said Sarah.  

“Some hospitals are already doing this by ensuring that their executive teams are diverse and representative of different cultures and backgrounds to support the diversity of community members that they support.” 


Focusing on proactive knowledge sharing from health leaders to future health professionals in training or whilst they study can contribute to attraction, engagement and retention in the industry. 

“We need to generously share the rich knowledge that many of us have gained and experienced to mentor our future leaders’ insights on how to lead. I feel that there is not a lot of transparency or visibility in that space. So, it’s important that we make this a normal interaction, so it isn’t questioned by millennials who will lead our healthcare operations into the future.” 


It’s so important to platform successful diverse people – especially women – in the health tech space.  

“When strong women have a voice, it can energise qualified women to apply themselves to health tech when they otherwise may not have considered the field – which could impact the future innovation in healthcare,” said Sarah. 

This also applies to anyone with diverse backgrounds and cultures.  

“Let’s all have a diversity of voices! We must keep pushing that.” 


Other important insights from the Talking Health Tech panel  

In addition to Sarah’s insights, other panel members re-iterated the importance of a more diverse workforce and healthcare and technology leadership.  

From their experiences, an inclusive workforce offers differing perspectives and compassion that can only contribute positively to scalable health products.  

Other suggestions from the panel for a more inclusive healthcare and digital ecosystem include: 

Adopt a change management approach to diversity – as soon as you assume you know everything about workplace diversity you might close yourself off to inclusivity opportunities. There is always an opportunity to learn and find out more as our communities and peoples change to new circumstances and contexts.  

Creating a safe space for all genders, people & cultures will require an open mindset that embraces change to adapt to new perspectives. These new perspectives can then contribute to new fresh ideas for your industry and workplace.  

Take a transparent stance on your hiring process. The panel session referred to Harvard Business Review’s article “Why Women Don’t Apply for Jobs Unless They’re 100% Qualified” noting that this is especially true in male-dominated sectors such as the tech industry. 

A suggestion on how to break this is by adjusting common hiring processes, including having complete transparency in company job postings. That means revealing rates of pay, hours worked, qualifications and desired experience. Ambiguity keeps hires internal, which stems the flow of diversity from outside hires.

Sarah at TAFE Queensland’s DigiTrek Event 

In case you missed Sarah talking about encouraging more diversity into the health tech sector or to hear her full message (which was slightly cut off due to technical difficulties at the THT Summit) – you can watch her recording on a similar panel for DigiTrek. 

Led by the QLD government and TAFE, the panel discussion took place as part of DigiTrek  – The Digital Skills Roadshow – across Townsville from 9 – 21 May 2022.  

Sarah discussed “Careers and Adventures to Inspire,” with Dianna Hardy, Trine Paerata, Heather Robson, and Keziah Furnell from James Cook University, and moderated by Miranda Mears from the Smart Precinct NQ.

View the online session here.

To further discuss digital healthcare leadership, innovation and an inclusive ecosystem, you can get in touch directly with Sarah via LinkedIn or leave a message via our contact page