Yes, the glass ceiling is real: Here's how these women in health IT leaders are breaking through

Executives from Wolters Kluwer, 4D Healthware and Femwell Group Health suggest finding mentors among women and men alike, breaking down stereotypes and surviving in the age of #MeToo and #TimesUp movements.
women in health IT

It may be 2018, but the gender gap and glass ceiling are still problematic. 

While more women are in leadership positions, recent studies have shown they’re still poorly represented in IT fields and the pay gaps are the largest in fields where women managers dominate.

The current social climate, supporting the ‘MeToo’ and ‘TimesUp’ movements, is demonstrating both the need and the desire to move all sectors into a more diverse and inclusive environment. 

For healthcare, this shift will be crucial to fill the massive staffing shortages facing the sector.

[Also: Women in Health IT often in spotlight at HIMSS18]

Fortunately, there are those in the industry who have broken through that glass ceiling and have been actively promoting diversity in the boardroom.

“The glass ceiling is a very real issue in the corporate world, one that has stalled the career trajectory of many outstanding female executives across industries,” said Wolters Kluwer Health CEO Diana Nole. “I personally have been extremely fortunate throughout my career to have worked with managers and leaders, both women and men, who have supported and encouraged me to grow, by encouraging my curiosity, by allowing me to ask questions without making me uncomfortable for doing so.”

Nole explained that Wolters Kluwer’s CEO, Nancy McKinstry, has helped to create an environment where employees are not only encouraged to be curious, they’re all given an equal chance at success.

“Women leaders in health IT have an obligation to cultivate other women leaders,” said Nole. “But we need to do it by creating environments that will attract richly talented people, both male and female, make them feel welcome and give them equal opportunities to advance.”

Nole embodies this mentality and works to create those opportunities, like sponsoring a scholarship at her alma mater, focused on women in technology.

“It’s about creating opportunities for women to compete on equal footing with their male counterparts,” she added.

Geeta Nayyar, MD, Femwell Group Health chief healthcare innovation officer, agreed that “there are all kinds of challenges at different stages in your career.”

But a great deal of her success was fueled by the support of both female and male mentors and colleagues.

“It’s really important to make sure you have a good network and actively search for men and women to support you,” said Nayyar. “And things have evolved and progressed … I believe that work should speak for itself and making sure you are working at the best of your ability.”

Nayyar explained that it’s the best way to have those conversations, as a network of people who have experienced similar situations can be helpful to advancement. But women also need to continue to invest in themselves, including their careers and higher education.

“There’s no better advocate than yourself: Start with that, so you can articulate your plans,” Nayyar said. 

While it’s true that it can be tough to be a woman in a male-dominated industry, 4D Healthware Founder Star Cunningham said that even with what’s going on in the media and politics today, “It’s a great time to be a woman. The world is really beginning to understand what they have been missing out on for so long with the voices of women being so stifled.”

Not only that, but Cunningham explained that the world really has no idea what solutions have been missed out on in the entertainment, healthcare, finance industries and the like, without the voice of women at the table.

“What a world we would live in if women were truly valued for everything they are and all they bring to the table,” said Cunningham. 

To that end, Nayyar explained that we need to continue to point out the relevance of women in health technology. 

“Everyone seems to be beleaguered with the idea that women may not be predominant in the field,” said Nayyar. “Health tech serves healthcare: That relevance is truly important, leading with data relevant to that role.”

Twitter: @JessieFDavis
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