Judy Faulkner's advice to women in health IT

Epic's CEO encouraged women to forget the glass ceiling and use the fact that they are not men to their advantage.
Judy Faulkner women in health IT

CLEVELAND — Epic CEO Judy Faulkner had a message for women working in healthcare and technology.

“Be a builder,” Faulkner said at the annual Cleveland Clinic Medical Innovations Summit.


That advice doubled as a window into Faulkner’s long-standing philosophy to both keep the EHR company she founded private and to develop new technologies rather than acquiring other companies to get obtain them. 

Faulkner also said the corporate culture she created at Epic runs counter to many tech companies because they are run by MBA’s rather than people with technology chops and programming skills.

“Are you a missionary [focused on a mission],” she posed. “Or are you a mercenary?” The latter being beholden to quarterly earnings.


 When asked about the Glass Ceiling, Judy Faulkner said she never saw one. Instead, she always felt there was an advantage to being one of one or two women in a meeting with mostly men. “They knew our names, but not each others.”

In other words, she used that sense of standing out to her advantage.

Carla Smith, executive vice president of HIMSS and founder of the HIMSS Most Influential Women in Health Information and Technology Awards, said that we need to build a pipeline for women and minorities in health IT.

“Knowledge is power,” Smith said. “Know your value and negotiate.”

Smith moderated a panel in the HIMSS Innovation and Conference Center, including Aashima Gupta, the global head of healthcare solutions at Google, Christina Caraballo, director at Audacious Inquiry and Linda McHugh, chief human resources officer at Cleveland Clinic. 

“Building diverse teams shouldn’t just be an enterprise goal, it should be a personal responsibility of each individual,” Gupta said.  

Diversity, in fact, is a great beginning and teams should also strive to be inclusive and foster a feeling of belonging, Caraballo said.

“Diversity is being invited to the party; inclusion is being asked to dance; belonging is dancing like no one is watching,” Caraballo added.

Healthcare, like so many other industries, has a long way to go to achieve diversity, inclusion and belonging.

McHugh, for instance, recounted a story of a meeting encompassing all male leaders on diversity in which one man said that hiring a woman would mean lowering standards.

How to make such misperceptions a thing of the past?

Smith said that women would be smart to seek helpful mentors and to address these kinds of statements strategically and not with a heated exchange.

"You need a mentor who you believe believes in you,” Smith said. “Don’t just look for a mentor that you admire."

John Sharp is Senior Manager at the HIMSS Personal Connected Health Alliance.

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