At a recent HIMSS virtual workshop on achieving gender parity in the digital health workforce, a range of experts came together to discuss the recognition of women in health IT, major gender-based issues encountered in the workspace and key resources needed to improve the status quo.
Speakers included Daniel Johnston, clinical workflow specialist at Imprivata, Marianna Imenokhoeva, founder of LinktoMedicine, Stefanie Veraghtert, founder and director of Big C, Liz-Ashall Payne, founding CEO of ORCHA, Pascal Lardier, VP of content & media at HIMSS and Angela Velkova, director of communities and strategic relations EMEA at HIMSS.
Tackling gender norms in ICT
One of the topics touched on by the panel was women’s changing attitude to the ICT industry, particularly in the 1980s following the launch of Apple Macintosh and the boom in home computers. The panel discussed how the male dominant stereotype about ICT started.
Marianna Imenokhoeva, founder of LinktoMedicine said: “It’s not about our genes, it’s about our culture.”
The panel also looked at the percentage of women by fields in the US enrolled in ICT studies. Imenokhoeva explained: “You can see that this percentage was not always that low as we have right now. So for example, in 1985, it was almost 35%. It was a growing trend together with women enrolled in law school or medical school. However, something happened in the '80s. Now we have a dropping line. Actually, it's a big question. What happened?”
“If we don’t want our children to inherit this unbalanced reality, we should think about the exact steps and change which we can do right now. Because today, ICT and digital sector have very specific barriers and difficulties for women,” said Imenokhoeva.
Liz-Ashall Payne, founding CEO of ORCHA added to this point: “We need to start early, and we need to raise awareness.
“At ORCHA, we do some school based programmes called Digital Healthy Schools, which first of all bring awareness around health and digital health and the world of digital health.
“What was really interesting about that programme, what we were trying to do was help people gain access to high quality digital products.
“What we saw was an awareness being raised of this new career option of digital health. The girls who are interested in healthcare roles, traditional healthcare roles such as doctor, nurse therapist, started to get interested in the digital side, because they'd have the world of digital health opened up to them,” concluded Payne.
HIMSS Women in Health IT (WHIT) EMEA Annual Survey key findings
The regional breakdown of respondents from the WHIT EMEA Annual Survey were predominantly from Europe, accounting for 74% of participants, 7% were from the Middle East and 2% from Africa with the rest of the participation from other parts of the world such as North America and Australia.
The key conclusions of the survey were that gender-based discrimination in healthcare IT workspace has slightly increased (37%) compared to last year.
Lower salary, exclusion from decision making, increased workload and fewer public speaking opportunities are major forms of discrimination.
The survey also revealed that a 20% rise in women professionals feel valued for their contributions to the healthcare IT industry comparative to 2019 survey results.
HIMSS call to action
HIMSS are trying to improve inclusivity in the following ways:
- Global Health Equity Network to advance diversity and inclusion to ensure health and wellness for everyone, everywhere.
- Global Health Equity Week to take place 19-23 October 2020, an initiative focused on displaying the potential of health information and technology to transform health and minimise health disparities.
- HIMSS Future50 Call for Leaders promoting more nominations from women leaders.
- HIMSS Women in Health IT Channel within the HIMSS Learning Center for professional resources and virtual education for women in the industry. .
- Concentrated effort on increasing the inclusion of more women speakers in HIMSS events and community activities.
- Content can be found on HIMSS Europe Digital Event covering women‘s health and femtech Sessions.