International Women’s Day – Women in HIT Wish List

Posted on March 8, 2017 I Written By

Janae builds inbound social media sales and marketing plans for healthcare IT companies. Healthcare as a human right. Physician Suicide Loss Survivor. twitter: @coherencemed


Inequality in healthcare IT can get discouraging. Simplistic articles and advice for organizations on support from other women isn’t helping decrease the wage gap. (According to the 2016 report from HIMSS.) This year while attending HIMSS I asked women what advice they had for other women in Health IT.  I wanted to write life changing advice about what women in healthcare can learn from knowing women in tech and from each other.  I wanted to convince my good friend that left Health IT to move to other parts of Tech to come back. Many activists encouraging documenting your experiences negative and positive within the healthcare IT system. Some of the things I could share I judged too damaging for my personal goals to write about. As I spoke with Sarah Lacy and Cindy Gallop they directly said- if no one shares their story nothing will change.

Women’s issues in technology and the workplace make me livid. Here’s a list of some of them.

  1. Being casually hit on by married men in a professional setting. Or lack of professionalism. I’ve heard shocking stories from doctors and CEOs. Recent legal action has highlighted some systemic sexism in technology companies.
  2. Women who discredit each other in public and in private.
  3. At one meeting a woman mentioned “It must be hard to be in a room with so much estrogen.”
  4. Being afraid of mentioning anything for fear of losing credibility or hurting people I value.
  5. Feeling unsupported by men when I have greater fallout from relationships than they ever will. Do not forget that some of the fear is actually founded. Women who speak up do not always have support at work.
  6. Balancing positive and negative experiences can be exhausting. I am a mother like Sarah Lacy- I loved her comment that becoming a mother changed everything.  While I want to be a good example and provide for my three children I haven’t had the moment when I call out sexism and inequality in my personal experience.

Double standards scare me. In chatting with Sarah Lacy about being unafraid of sharing I was impressed by her candor about real personal losses.  Her comment that standing up for women has made her enemies reminded me that gender parity isn’t free.  It takes fearlessness. Through losing someone to suicide a year and a half ago I saw some fallout of people and realized that not everyone is for us. People disappeared that I never expected to leave my life and not everyone knew how to interact with me anymore. The advice I give to people from that experience is- When you don’t fit into the same mold you will lose people. Not everyone will want to work with you. Take people where they are. Always be where you are. Let go of some people so your professional life has room for true allies. For my friend that meant leaving Healthcare tech for another software industry. For me it meant a higher paying job after John’s death and only working with people I chose to connect with. It was a huge financial adjustment for personal reasons. I was also one of 4 women with a team of approximately 70 men at the time. In a very real way the women at that company had different expectations than the men. For one woman I spoke to at HIMSS it has meant losing her job at 55 and experiencing wage discrimination despite extensive experience. Have the courage to be where you are.

Systemically the culture of women in technology has to change. The loss of potential innovation and revenue and talent is a major cost to companies and the industry. There are educators teaching the economics of gender equality and trying to balance the equation. Thank you.

I have an amazing group of women in my life. I’ve had the honor to be part of Doyenne Connections this year. They are a group of women dedicated to grassroots support and mentoring. I was able to attend the Women in Tech Luncheon hosted by Disruptive Women in Healthcare.   I’m still pretty sure that Ceci Connolly and I are going to lunch next year.  I sat next to Dr. Wen Dombrowski at the luncheon and she reminded me to make my own opportunities.

Statistics about women in healthcare IT are discouraging. The wage gap is alive and well in healthcare especially at the executive level. Some of the theories about why this might be true seem apologist to me. HIMSS Vice President Loren Pettit was quoted in regards to the for profit gender pay divide shortly before HIMSS. “To be perfectly honest, we can’t explain that,” he said. “It’s just how the data came out.”

WE CAN’T EXPLAIN IT!?

Expletive?  There is probably an informatics specialist out there that has a digital solution to this problem. Can we gamify equality for corporations? This year has seen some new initiatives encouraging women to be involved in technology, including Melinda Gates announcing she was planning to invest in programs.  The 2017 report about Gender Barriers from ISACA.org reported that “a lack of female mentors (48 percent), a  lack of female role models (42 percent) and limited networking opportunities (27 percent) are the top three” barriers to women advancing in technology.   I went to some great women’s networking events at HIMSS. Can we make women specific events free? Many women’s events at HIMSS have an additional registration and cost. Companies that asked about helping women – I’ll give you an idea about what you can do. Sponsor a women’s event.

As Cindy Gallop reminded me- “If nobody speaks up, nothing changes.”

Here’s my wish list for Women’s Day this year.

  1. I want the gender gap in Health IT to get narrower this year.
  2. I would love to see support of female counterparts for gender differences without fanfare or expectations. Show up for women. Show up because it is what people do.
  3. I would love a health IT solution for gender parity in tech. If it already exists, please contact me so I can write about it.
  4. I wish we could all be as brave as female leaders that aren’t afraid of making enemies.  I wish I could be as brave as they are.
  5. I would love to see Melinda Gates as a mentor. My mentor.  Actually as my sponsor.

This Women’s Day I don’t have an inspirational article about moving proudly forward. I am tired. Some of the people I thought would be on my side as a woman are not. That’s not where they are. There are some safe places but it is exhausting. I’m not fearlessly calling out wrongdoing to raise awareness. I’m not sure what the complete solution is. We are all stumbling forward through darkness. We will make a way. We will make our opportunities.

Post Script- Can we never clap for men asking how they can help again?  I sort of expect men to show up. It’s a financial problem for Healthcare that women don’t stay here. The first time I saw the clapping was my first HIMSS when a man asked how men can help and everyone clapped and I didn’t know what was happening. This was clearly not like other feminist groups I know. I looked around and thought- maybe start by not making a women’s event about you. Also have you heard of a thing called Google – you can insert questions and will get some relevant data. You could type “what can I do to encourage women in tech” into the search bar. Spoiler alert – money is the answer. You can pay women the same amount you pay men. Your company will also be more profitable.