A panel of experts discussed the need for more international communities and networks for women, as well as education and support tools to empower women in health IT, during the session, 'Recognising and Supporting Women in health IT in the Middle East.'
The speakers were Dr Taghreed Justinia, CIO, VP of IT/IS King Saud Bin Abdulaziz University for Health Science; Hana Ibrahim Abu Sharib, senior nursing informatics officer corporate Nursing & Allied Health, United Arab Emirates; Hanan Al-Enazi, director of change management & knowledge management
National Health Information Center, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia; and Dr Noha Khater, CEO and co-founder, Almouneer Medical Services, Egypt.
Although women make up a large part of the healthcare workforce, they continue to be underrepresented in the health IT industry and in higher grade roles, despite their significant contribution. The HIMSS Women in Health IT Community aims to address the gender gap within the industry, drive awareness of gender-related issues, and to provide professional resources and greater recognition to women leaders making significant contributions to the field.
The Women in Health IT Survey
The Women in Health IT EMEA Annual Survey was aptly launched on International Women's Day this year to determine the challenges women in the industry face. From the results, Al-Enazi shared the most important issues encountered in the workspace and highlighted some key findings: "The first one was lower salary, and the second one was exclusion from the decision making. The third one was a lower chance of promotion, increased workload and equal workplace treatment."
Although these results covered the EMEA region, Al-Enazi conceded: "From my point of view, all these issues apply to all women worldwide."
When looking at gender-based discrimination, the results also found that it has slightly increased by 3% compared to last year. The major forms of discrimination were lower salary, exclusion from decision-making, increased workload and fewer public-speaking opportunities.
Contrarily, Al-Enazi noted: "The third finding was a remarkable 20% rise in woman professional who feel valued for their contribution to the healthcare IT industry. And this is really a nice thing to hear."
Developing talent through the 2030 Vision
Dr Justinia shed some light on the problems Saudi women face, based on a local survey: "One of them is the time it takes to find a job after they graduate. That's been one issue.
"As far as the workplace concern, some of the issues that the women here face, are lack of preparation in the facility, especially with jobs that women are recently coming into, or jobs that women haven't been participating in before. We find that the facilities aren't necessarily catered to women."
Referring to Saudi's 2030 Vision agenda of having a vibrant society, a thriving economy, and an ambitious nation, Dr Justinia adds: "Of course this includes Saudi women, Saudi women are considered a great asset, with over 50% of our university graduates being Saudi females.
"We aim to continue to develop their talents. We need to invest in their productive capabilities, and we want to strengthen their future so that they can be contributing members of society and contributors to the economy."
As part of the 2030 Vision, Saudi Arabia aims to provide jobs for one million Saudi women by 2030. With Saudi women's unemployment rates dropping in 2020, Dr Justinia notes this as a promising sign for the country: "Women on unemployment rates are becoming lower, which means that that's a direct reflection of empowering women."
Abu Sharib admitted that although women in the UAE generally have great opportunities to reach leadership positions, in the health IT industry, the dominance remains with men because the majority of graduates are male.
"For nursing informatics, I have more female nurses by statistics, who are involved in the field yet the problem with me is that I've got them working but not able to develop themselves, to train and to get more advanced in the work or even recognised by having better salary increment based on experience or knowledge gained.
"So they leak out to other disciplines, which is other IT or health information management departments and not being contained within our specialty, which is nursing. I think that's the major concern."
Women leading the change
Although healthcare is often viewed as a traditional industry, Dr Khater notes that the digital transformation in healthcare is now making people more receptive to change: "Women will be leading the change in the healthcare tech sector because a lot of women are already present in the healthcare sector. The healthcare tech sector is dependent on women, and its operation in its day-to-day challenges."
Dr Khater added: "One of the latest studies from McKinsey showed that companies driven by women are led by women tend to show higher profitability than companies, led by men, by 21%, on average, especially the companies led by women.
"There is no need for us to justify why women should be given the opportunities and the fact that they will excel or succeed. It's the fact that giving, it's about giving them the chance or the opportunity."
HIMSS call to action
On ways to improve gender representation in health IT roles, Dr Khater explains: "I think one of the most important things is to display and to promote role models and successful women.
"I salute HIMSS for the Most Influential Woman Award. It's important to highlight successful or professional women who have succeeded, and to demonstrate how this can be possible for other women who are trying to succeed or achieve something, and to be also advocates for other women."
HIMSS has been accepting submissions for the 2021 Most Influential Women in Health IT Awards to recognise and celebrate influential women who harness the power of information and technology.
Dr Khater continues: "There is always going to be the issue of gender inequality or the fact that women don't get the same opportunity as men. That is the same thing that makes women stand out when they succeed, it will always be 'look at this woman or look at this female-led business or enterprise that has succeeded in spite of the fact of being a woman.'
"So actually, it helps shed more light on this success and it inspires other women," concluded Dr Khater.
Find out how HIMSS is committed to advancing the careers of high-performing women in the profession and how they are addressing the gender gap here.
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