Skip to main content
Home » Women's healthcare » Shifting gears: why we need to accelerate innovation in women’s health

Jack Harris

Vice President, Oncology, UK and Women’s Leadership Initiative (WLI) sponsor at GSK

In order to improve global health, we must address the prevailing gender gap in medical research, health education and treatment.

You might be wondering how a man is qualified to write an article about women’s health. It’s a valid question, but there are two key reasons why I wanted to step forward. Firstly, to achieve a truly equitable society, men must recognise the benefits and importance of women’s equality and do what they can to promote it. Second, gynaecological cancers have affected people I love, and driving innovation in this area is a mission very close to my heart.

Women’s health challenge

From the recently published (August 2022) Women’s Health Strategy for England, we know that while women in the UK, on average, live longer than men, they spend a significantly greater proportion of their lives in ill health compared to men.1 And even though women make up 51% of the population, historically, the health and care system has been designed by men for men.1

This year marks just 30 years since the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) lifted its ban on women of childbearing potential participating in clinical research,2 and it was only last year that the UK Government launched its Women’s Health Strategy to improve women’s experiences at every stage of their interactions with the healthcare system.1 Advances in women’s health are astonishingly recent, and there’s a lot of catching up to do.

Redressing the balance

At GSK, gynaecological cancers have been, and continue to be, a key research priority within our work.

Progress in gynaecological cancers had been limited and long overdue, but new innovations have given people hope and the opportunity to spend more time with their loved ones. Our commitment to women continues as we work hard to include breast cancer as a research focus in the future, in line with our ethos of aspiring to discover new treatments that have the potential to change outcomes in oncology treatment.

Beyond our medicines, we prioritise collaboration with patient advocacy organisations and have launched awareness campaigns and patient support materials to help women find their voice in the consultation room and take control of their health and treatment.

Working collaboratively with patient advocacy organisations allows us to better understand the patient experience and, ultimately, support them in a meaningful and impactful way.

Our recent ‘Be Gynae Aware’ and ‘Give Her Time’ campaigns worked closely with patient advocacy groups and healthcare professionals. For ‘Be Gynae Aware,’ we created materials to help people get the most out of their gynaecological appointments, helping to facilitate better dialogue between patients and healthcare professionals and, as a consequence, working to improve early diagnosis of gynaecological cancers.

‘Give Her Time’ focuses on supporting women with advanced ovarian cancer to better advocate for themselves during appointments with their consultant, particularly in relation to how they want to spend their time; for example, whether they prioritise quality of life or extended time.

Working collaboratively with patient advocacy organisations allows us to better understand the patient experience and, ultimately, support them in a meaningful and impactful way.

Hitting the accelerator

There is a lot more to do to achieve equity in women’s cancers, but at GSK, we are concentrating our efforts on where we can make a real difference. We’re focusing on doing what is right — not what is easy.

We’re unafraid of investing in research that has the potential to help small populations with specific mutations, on the understanding that we will be helping them live longer, better lives. It is time to double down and turn the tide to ensure women’s health is no longer an afterthought.

Job Code: NP-GB-AOU-OGM-230002 March 2023

[1] GOV.UK. March 2023.
[2] Office on Women’s Health. March 2023.

Next article