Gender discrimination still common in the health IT industry in Europe, survey suggests

Progress has been made towards gender equality, but it is clear that much work remains to be done, and the situation is no different in health IT.

In a new survey of more than 100 women in the industry in Europe, carried out by HIMSS, owner of Healthcare IT News, more than 80% of respondents said they felt that their contribution to the industry was not recognised, and over 60% that they had encountered gender discrimination in the workplace.

This was manifested through lower chances of promotion and lower salaries, as well as fewer opportunities for training.  “You have to work twice as hard to demonstrate the same as a man in your position,” one respondent said. 

“Also there are places, specially [sic] when talking to investors that feel like they have to teach you things rather than listen to you. They expect the man in the room to carry the conversation and to deal with him rather than the woman.”

Sunjoy Mathieu, founder of Women in Digital Health in Switzerland, told Healthcare IT News the results were worrying. “There is a need for further support within organisations, and in my opinion that can only work if women who have ‘made it’ are mentoring and supporting other women, taking this responsibility and making change sustainable, on a societal level, not only fight for themselves as individuals," Mathieu said.

Mentoring programmes were also seen as important by respondents of the survey. However, only 30% said they were currently mentoring someone else, and 17% that they had a mentor. Approximately 50% expressed a willingness to be a mentor or a mentee.

Unveiling the results, Angela Velkova, HIMSS EMEA director of communities and strategic relations, said answers to questions about how women tackled gender discrimination in the workplace indicated that a majority of them were now coming forward and discussing the issues with colleagues and management, not letting it be swept under the rug. 

Furthermore, around 80% of women said their organisations were promoting and supporting diversity by encouraging open dialogue and having a zero-tolerance policy for disrespectful behaviour.

"The percentage of women feeling discriminated at the workplace based on their gender is concerning," Velkova added. "The survey results motivate us to work more through strategic initiatives at the local level - and the HIMSS regional communities can serve as a great platform for that."

Last year’s survey saw 94% of women say they felt that their work went unnoticed, and Velkova said that the 11% decrease, compared to the 2019 results, indicated that this was now starting to be addressed.

But there is still a long way to go. “We clearly need to urgently move to a situation where the gender discrimination we have at the moment is a thing of the past,” said Charles Alessi, chief clinical officer of HIMSS. "It is not acceptable that such large amounts of women feel that their contributions are not valued. We have to change it," the CCO cautioned.

Full coverage: HIMSS & Health 2.0 Europe 2019

Healthcare decision makers, patients, clinicians, nurses, life science professionals, innovators and many more are set to convene at the HIMSS & Health 2.0 European Conference 2019 in Helsinki on 11-13 June.

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