Increasingly, gender bias and discrimination have continued to dominate the headlines with both the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements, along with studies that show the gender pay gap continues to be problematic.
Especially in the health IT field where men outnumber women, it’s important to keep moving forward to find ways to improve upon these issues. While these issues continue to be problematic, some women in health IT have forged ahead to find success.
To Kathy Lokay, general manager for Via Oncology, an Elsevier company, it comes down to knowing one's self.
“I’ve had to mature to find self-awareness, to understand what goes on in my own head that may hold me back,” said Lokay. “But I think self-awareness on all sides is a key part of overcoming gender bias and pay gaps.”
Conversations about the softer side of human nature and how we all behave at work have also helped fuel change. Lokay explained that it helps determine our natural tendencies and outliers.
For Lokay, she’s benefited over the years from primarily male bosses who opened up opportunities and encouraged her to step into roles that she herself was unsure she was fit to fill. She admitted she realized she’s less inclined to accept those advancements offered to her.
“If I didn’t have those male mentors that said you should try those roles -- would I have taken them? I don’t know,” Lokay said. “Are there some differences in the way we’d generally approach those roles?”
“It’s an uncomfortable area,” Lokay pondered, as she considered her path. “There’s enough bias in IT itself. And I’ve come to realize, I probably would not have come as far along as I have, if I had to rely on myself to grab those opportunities.”
The combination of support and direction from leadership created the necessary formula.
It’s these lessons Lokay attempts to bring into her work at Via, as she’s noticed there are less women in the tech-side of the business than the content and customer-facing side.
“For a lot of IT, there just aren’t as many applicants of females on the tech-side,” said Lokay. “I’m hoping universities around the world are working to change the profile. There’s that level of activation that needs to happen, so that applicants for these jobs are more evenly distributed.”
Lokay feels a personal responsibility to recognize that within the company there may also be women who have the same tendencies that she has when it comes to getting out of comfort zones. As a result, she tries to mirror her mentors and bosses by encouraging her colleagues to try new roles.
“And to not measure people by who goes after things most aggressively,” said Lokay. “Instead, measure people by not only who does well, but how able they are to push themselves out of their comfort zone. If you stay in your comfort zone, you can have a nice career - but it will be a career in only one area.”
Lokay said one of her biggest pieces of advice: Take risks.
“You build your career by taking risk, accepting risk and challenges that make you a little uncomfortable,” she continued. “If you want to be up there, you can’t just own one part of the business. You have to accept those challenges and opportunities.”