Women and Men in Healthcare IT: Friends not Foes

by Sarah Sample-Reif on October 10, 2017

Women do still need men when it comes to mentoring and career success—and this is especially important in male-dominated sectors like Health IT, according to research published in Personnel Psychology. Men in senior Health IT positions outnumber women by three to one, according to Health IT News, so women can’t depend only on other women for career guidance and opportunity.

In most organizations, there are “male champions” who genuinely believe in fairness, gender equity and talent development. Leadership coach Anna Marie Valerio and Villanova professor Katina Sawyer surveyed senior male and female leaders in Fortune 500 companies and non-profit organizations to tell us about the behaviors of these male champions. They found that these champions believe that it’s important to involve men in diversity initiatives, according to Harvard Business Review.

Such men are willing to use their authority to help women rise, whether that’s by recommending them for promotions, making sure they get the coaching or mentoring they need or challenging hiring managers about the percentage of women interviewed.

What Men Can Do To Support Women

Sheryl Sandberg’s #LeanInTogether emphasizes that men have an important role to play in achieving workplace equity and diversity. It encourages men to take a large role in parenting and share housework—allowing their kids’ mothers to focus more on a career. At work, they’re reminded to speak up when they notice stereotyping or inequality.

At the same time, #LeanInTogether advises women to be workplace allies for other women and to serve as role models for girls.

Today’s Girls, Tomorrow’s Workplace

One of the most important things we can do to close the gender gap, at least when it comes to representation in the Health IT workforce, is simply to get girls excited about the work and the opportunities. We’re making progress here.

Major corporations and local organizations are working to promote STEM classes to girls. For example, Ford Motor Co. teamed with the Girl Scouts on Girls’ Fast Track Races, giving girls the chance to learn about automotive science and engineering by building their own track race cars.

The Code Like a Girl Act is an interesting but long-term project. The bill would establish two National Science Foundation grant programs to research how to better get girls aged 10 and younger to explore computer science in the classroom, according to Healthcare IT News. The bill was introduced to Congress in July and seems to have bipartisan support.

As we encourage more girls and women to get into technical professions, we need to continue to work to make them welcome—and to make sure that our co-workers, managers and leaders do, as well.

Men must play a role in creating that welcoming IT workplace, but let’s not forget our own roles. Sally Krawcheck, now CEO of Ellevest, a digital investment platform for women, says she’s fed up with the idea of empowering women: Empowerment assumes that one group—men—has the ability to give power to another, in this case, women. Instead, she writes in Fortune, “We must do this for ourselves” by actively growing and using the power women have. She says women should invest in women-run companies, actively manage our careers and take responsibility for starting those difficult workplace conversations about diversity.

Let’s never forget that we’re all in this together, and we’re in this to use technology to empower all medical professionals and healthcare consumers.

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