Women promise new tide for health IT

Time to say farewell stereotypes: Hello gender parity

In health IT, it's a man's world.

Although women account for more than 47 percent of the U.S. labor force, they hold a paltry 25 percent of senior health IT roles nationwide. Don't get used to this trend, however, say female industry leaders who are working to make the realm of information technology more accessible to women. 

Map of Women in Senior health information technology rolesAfter analyzing more than 3,000 health IT positions nationwide — such as chief information officers and vice presidents of IT — Healthcare IT News found that 75 percent are occupied by men. 

Although data from the U.S. Department of Labor finds that the number of women holding various IT positions across all industries is significantly lower — estimated at 17 percent — 25 percent of women in senior health IT roles, to many in the industry, is still no number meriting celebration. 

"I don't think it's an acceptable number," says Lucy Sanders, chief executive officer and co-founder of the National Center for Women & Information Technology — especially considering that computer science and informatics is one of the fastest growing professions in terms of employment opportunity.  

Sanders, a self-described "raging technologist," earned her graduate degree in computer science in the '70s and then went to work for Bell Labs. Since her early days in IT, she says in many ways the environment has worsened for women — attributing the biggest culprit to stereotyping and societal bias from women and men alike. "Computing was a new discipline (in the '70s), and there weren't perhaps as many stereotypes about who's good at it and who's not," says Sanders. 

[See also: Top 10 women powerhouses in health IT.]

Bureau of Labor statistics report that in 1991 women held 36 percent of IT positions; in 2009, they held 25 percent. The issue here is not about men versus women; rather, it's about eliminating any barrier or notion that may hinder women; it pertains to gender parity, adds Sanders. "I'm a big believer that both men and women can excel in the same way."

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