At the intersection of two historically male-dominated fields, female leaders in health information technology have been a minority but continue to grow in number and impact.
A solid minority trending upward
According to a recent Silicon Valley Bank survey, an average of only 45 percent of US tech companies have one or more female on their board of directors or working at a chief-level position. This disparity is even greater in health-specific IT companies or divisions, where Health IT News reported only about 25 percent of senior roles are held by women.
At the same time, females make up a larger percentage of leaders in hospitals who are doing health IT well. Women make up 45 and 48 percent of leaders, respectively, at hospitals ranked at the maturity levels of Stage 6 or Stage 7 (the two highest levels) by the Healthcare Information and Management System Society (HIMSS) Analytics.
Role Models and National Presence
For students entering the field of health informatics, there are many institutions and role models to look to for examples or reassurance of the growing tide of gender equality in health IT leadership.
There are many female leaders at governmental and national organizations. The current National Coordinator for Health Information Technology is Dr. Karen B. DeSalvo. The American Medical Informatics Association has strong female representation, as well.
Here at the University of Michigan, we have an example of our Health System’s CIO, Sue Schade, who is an editorial board member for Fierce Health IT and recognized as a “Top 10 Women Powerhouses” in March 2013. Other women in that list have held the lead roles at many notable institutions including Mayo Clinic, Brigham and Women’s, and Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center.
For Consideration and Discussion
While the upward momentum of female leadership in tech, healthcare and its intersecting health IT is promising, change is far from complete. Today, females do not represent a majority of academic medical research or technology leadership. We should all expect to lead a majoritally male team and to face the types of challenges any leader, regardless of gender, encounters in health IT.
Post by Molly Maher, a first-year Masters of Health Informatics student at the School of Information and School of Public Health. Find her at @mollycmaher
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