ISPOR Speaks

Diversity’s Role in Advancing HEOR Excellence: ISPOR’s Women in HEOR Initiative


Betsy Lane, Senior Director and Chief Marketing & Communications Officer, ISPOR, Lawrenceville, NJ, USA


Why Focus on Diversity?

Research studies have continuously demonstrated that diversity of all types significantly improves performance and outcomes. ISPOR’s mission to promote health economics and outcomes research (HEOR) excellence to improve decision making for health globally ties integrally to how diversity can have a positive impact on the quality of research and healthcare decisions. One way that ISPOR is responding is through its Women in HEOR initiative that rests on the foundation that fostering diversity in HEOR will not just promote equity, but also spur innovation, enhance research, and improve healthcare decisions.

McKinsey’s research on diversity and performance is often cited and has routinely demonstrated that diverse executive teams financially outperform less diverse teams.1 The 2020 report found that gender-diverse executive teams performed 25% better and ethnically diverse executive teams performed 36% better when compared to nondiverse teams. Additional detail on this research can be found in McKinsey’s report, “Diversity Wins: How Inclusion Matters.”1

Much research also shows how women are underrepresented in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields. Globally (averaged across regions), women accounted for less than one-third (28.8%) of those employed in scientific research and development across the world.2 Additionally, the “leaky faucet” phenomenon occurs as women progress in their careers in which fewer and fewer women are represented at each step on the career ladder. Illustrating this is a study that examined women in economics at the top 20 European faculties in this field. This study found that women represented 35% of PhD students, but only 26% of academic faculty, and only 13% of full professors.3 Clearly, much work is needed to achieve gender parity.

“We embrace diversity and inclusion in our membership and in all endeavors.”


Diversity at ISPOR
Lack of diversity is an issue that is pervasive, deeply entrenched throughout virtually all aspects of everyday life, and an issue that impacts essentially every sector and geography. ISPOR has been proactively addressing diversity for some time and it is one of the Society’s organizational values that is outlined in its Strategic Plan.

ISPOR is also committed to diversity of all types, as outlined in its diversity dimensions that include gender, career stage, ethnicity, race, education, sexual orientation, regional/geographic location, physical disabilities, religion, and more.


ISPOR’s Diversity Impact
As ISPOR has been aiming to improve diversity and inclusion, its Women in HEOR group has been working to help capture and report on those metrics. Notably, the Society is actively striving to improve the gender diversity of its conference speakers, with significant progress made over the past 6 years. Illustrating this progress is the improved gender balance of invited speakers (plenary and spotlight sessions) at ISPOR’s annual conferences. In 2016, only 26% of these speakers were women. In 2021, 49% of ISPOR’s plenary and spotlight session speakers were women. ISPOR’s Board of Directors has also long been a highly diverse board with its current 2021-2022 board at 50%/50% gender diversity and geographic representation from around the globe.



The Founding of Women in HEOR
The Women in HEOR initiative was founded by ISPOR’s 2017-2018 President, Shelby D. Reed, RPh, PhD of Duke University. This initiative is one of Dr Reed’s key achievements during her term as President and it speaks to her commitment both to women in the field and to excellence in research. Joining Dr Reed early in its initiation was Olivia Wu, PhD of the University of Glasgow. Today this initiative is co-led by Dr Wu and Julia F. Slejko, PhD of the University of Maryland.

The Women in HEOR vision was established at its inception and aims to:

• Support the growth, development, and contribution of women in HEOR
• Serve as a catalyst for women’s leadership in the field
• Offer a platform for ISPOR women to collaborate, network, share, and mentor each other


Women in HEOR Events and Resources
ISPOR hosts Women in HEOR events at its 2 annual conferences—the Society’s annual international conference and ISPOR Europe. When in-person conferences are held, events have included a conference session, a “Meet the Speakers” reception, and Dine Arounds. These events are designed to offer both educational content and the opportunity for attendees from a variety of career stages and disciplines to network. During the pandemic, virtual sessions have been offered. The ISPOR Women in HEOR webpages provide information on the initiative, including an introductory video about Women in HEOR and how to get involved. There is also a link to the initiative’s LinkedIn Discussion Group. The Women in HEOR Resources webpage makes resources available from past events as well as external resources that are related to the initiative’s mission. Past sessions have included topics such as “Adapting to the ‘New Normal’” and “Unleashing the Leader Within You.”


Cool Guy Allies
It is important to note that all are welcome to support and participate in the Women in HEOR initiative. The initiative is open to everyone, not only women. Many men support Women in HEOR and are critical to achieving diversity and inclusion objectives both within ISPOR and outside of the organization. A number of prominent male ISPOR members publicly support the initiative and are deemed “Cool Guy Allies.” In fact, the Society now offers conference “Cool Guy Ally” badge ribbons at its in-person conferences to be worn proudly by men who would like to publicly support Women in HEOR.

How To Get Involved
Women in HEOR welcomes all who support the advancement of women in the field to join in its events, participate in its LinkedIn Discussion group, and support the initiative overall.

• Become an ISPOR member (if you are not already a member)
• Visit the Women in HEOR microsite for information and resources
• Join the Women in HEOR LinkedIn Discussion Group
• Attend a Women in HEOR session at an upcoming ISPOR conference
• Join the conversation on social media and use key hashtags: #WomenInHEOR #CoolGuyAlly #ISPORian #HEOR

Additional information on ISPOR’s broader diversity initiatives can be found at:

• Diversity at ISPOR
Diversity Policy



1. “Diversity wins: how inclusion matters.” McKinsey & Company, 2020. Available at: https://www.mckinsey.com/featured-insights/diversity-and-inclusion/diversity-wins-how-inclusion-matters. Accessed January 21, 2022.

2. UNESCO Institute for Statistics, US Fact Sheet: Women in Science (June 2018). Available at: http://uis.unesco.org. Accessed January 21, 2022.

3. How many female economics professors in top European Universities? http://bruegel.org/2018/03/how-many-female-economist-professors-in-top-european-universities/. Accessed January 21, 2022.

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