Q&A with Janet Hohmann, senior director of communications at Edifecs

Hohmann talks to Women in Health IT about strategies for achieving gender equity and what it’s like to be the only woman in the room.

Janet Hohmann is senior director of communications at Edifecs, a healthcare technology company with a stated mission to improve healthcare outcomes, reduce costs and to speed up the rate of innovation.

The company also prides itself on its leadership on gender equity with several initiatives focusing on the advancement of women.

Hohmann has taken the lead on this score. About a year ago she launched the #WhatIRun campaign along with Ryka shoes and brightpink.org, calling on Edifecs employees, partners, customers, friends, and other women to join the conversation and to share what they run. The intent: to show the power of women.

“We want tomorrow’s leaders, our daughters and nieces and friends, to understand that what they can achieve is limitless…to pursue careers as business and IT leaders,” Hohmann wrote last September during National HealthIT Week.

HealthcareITNews caught up with Hohmann to ask her about her own experience in the healthcare IT sector and the strategies that have helped her and others along the way.

Q: What prompted you to launch #WhatIRun?

A: My daughter. I don’t want her gender to limit her opportunity or her expectations for what she can achieve. I want her to see all the amazing women that are succeeding in HIT and STEM – and to know if she can dream it, she can be it. And of course, my organization, Edifecs, inspired me. Senior leaders here are completely behind the cause and have given the platform and the support to make this program a reality.  I was driven to create the #WhatIRun program to build a place for women to join the conversation and share what makes them powerful inside and outside of their careers. I want to support other women in the industry and in all business to raise their voices and share their stories so young women and girls raise their expectations for themselves by seeing all that women do.

Q: What are your goals and what’s next?

A: I want to do more than just talk about it. I’m working on a conference for Women in HIT coming up this Spring in San Francisco and I am in the running to lead a discussion at HIMSS 17 on the gender disparity in healthcare IT. I want to get a plan in place to impact the change we have been discussing, including looking hard at organizations where gender equality is being achieved to capture best practices for others to model. And long term, the goal is to take this initiative and this work to countries where women need help to gain skills and financial independence. Where equality is an even bigger struggle. I’m fortunate that Edifecs supports and encourages my commitment to these issues.

Q: In your work, have you experienced being paid less than a male colleague doing the same work? How did you handle it?

A: My career definitely stumbled when I had children. Every time I returned from maternity leave, I had to reprove myself to a new manager – even though our company was relatively small. I received a pretty stellar 360 review a few months before going on maternity leave with my third child. The accompanying raise was nominal. I thought “it’s now or never” and worked up the nerve to ask for a better raise. The tangible, positive, review feedback gave me the courage to ask and I was told to wait until I returned from maternity leave and we’d see. That’s when I realized I needed to make a change.

Q: Are you a good negotiator when it comes to salary, benefits, the position, workload?

A: I’m not great at negotiating for salary or benefits. But I have gotten skilled at managing my workload. I know what I can do and set realistic deadlines and communicate them to everyone involved – taking into account business priorities, but also making sure I don’t sacrifice time with my family. I know the time with my kids while they are little is precious, and I rarely miss key events.

Q: What’s your best negotiating tip?

A: You are in the best position to negotiate before you join. Once you’ve signed-on, you’re locked into the company’s internal HR process for review cycles and salary ranges.

Q: Do you think the healthcare/health IT industries are more prone to disparity between women and men than other industries/sectors - and why?

A: While women have made significant progress on the clinical side, from a business leadership and IT perspective, it is still a man’s world.

Q: Have you had a mentor(s) in your career, and how has that benefited you?

A: Definitely. I had a very outspoken, strong manager early in my career. She advocated for me and paved the way for me. She set a great example for how to rise-up and bring key team members along with you. I had another colleague that had zero time for negativity. And she shut down any gossip and would only entertain negative conversations if they were to get to a positive outcome. I really try to follow this key example as negativity breeds more negativity.

Q: What do you most want to change about your work _ and why?

A: I’d like to see more women in business leadership roles.

Q: What has been your greatest challenge and how did you overcome it?

A: My greatest challenge is the day-to-day management of competing priorities. How late do I stay at work? What can I push off to finish after the kids have gone to sleep so I don’t miss time with them? Can I afford to work from home today to catch-up on laundry or sneak out for a grocery store trip? Am I succeeding enough at work? Am I present enough in my kids’ lives? It’s a constant give-and-take. And you need to be kind to yourself and let the little things – like dishes or bath time – slide.

Q: What is the best advice you've been given?

A: My father gave me great advice – to love what you do. Then putting in the effort will be its own reward. And I love the #WhatIRun program and am so fired-up to help young girls and women realize their potential and understand what they can achieve is boundless.

Q: What is it like to be the only woman in the room?

A: It can be intimidating. But it can also be very empowering. Now, I pull up my chair and make sure to voice my thoughts. If someone has to take notes, I never volunteer. I am careful to avoid being cast as assistant or a less important contributor – even when I’m meeting with more senior people. I usually forget I’m the only woman in the room.


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