Taking control of your life

It was a year ago that I did just that. I decided it was time to make a major life change professionally and personally. Since then, many people have wanted to learn how I did it. In fact, I spoke just this canstockphoto12123429week with a former mentee about her next professional move.

My advice was basic. Look at your last few professional moves. Why did you want to stay somewhere and why were you willing to leave? What were you looking for in the next opportunity? And what isn’t there today that you’d look for in the next opportunity.

I told her if she looks carefully at this, she’ll see a theme as to what makes her happy and what frustrates her. Then there will be more questions:

  • What kind of work do you want to do?
  • What kind of team do you want to be part of?
  • What mission will keep you committed and passionate?

But I told her not to get caught in the “grass is greener” trap. Because it’s not. Every organization has its crazy. You just need to figure out what that is and how to work effectively within it. Continue reading

Powerful women and their path to success

My first professional event since moving back to New England is the evening of Monday, November 7th. Boston Health 2.0 is a chapter of the national Health 2.0 organization. They hold monthly meetings to canstockphoto993163promote, showcase and catalyze new technologies in healthcare. The November event is a panel titled “The Power Women of Health IT: Path to Success”.

All powerful women have advice to give others and stories about obstacles they’ve overcome. This group of women panelists is no different and I’m excited to be part of it. Helen Figge, Senior Vice President, Global Strategies and Development, LumiraDx, USA, Inc., Cara Babachicos, Corporate Director/CIO, Community Hospitals, Partners Healthcare, and I were all honored to be named earlier this year to the “Most Powerful Women in Healthcare IT” by Health Data Management. We look forward to sharing our perspectives and stories.

The panel will cover advice on entrepreneurship for women, how women can influence the health IT industry, differing perceptions of competency in men and women, importance of mentorship, how men can be more supportive of professional women, and obstacles we’ve overcome in our own paths to success.

This should be a great discussion with a lot of insight and advice. But which obstacle should I comment on? Looking back to my early days in management, unfortunately there are many stories to share.

There was the male colleague who had it out for me during a five-year period when I was the only woman on the IT leadership team (it was the 80’s). One of the things he did early on was to spread a rumor that I was only in management because I was related to a board member with the same last name. It was so not true; I didn’t even know the board member. Continue reading

Manterrupting

How can I not comment on the most watched Presidential debate ever? There were 84 million people watching the debate. It was up against Monday night football and in my temporary town, thecanstockphoto10414040 Cleveland Indians were clinching the American Central championship.

For women who have dealt with blatant and subtle sexism throughout their lives and careers, it was the ultimate show.

As my twitter feed and Facebook filled with commentary Monday night and all day Tuesday, the gender politics came into focus.

 “Sexism is a man screaming he has a better temperament than a woman who has been patiently waiting to speak after being interrupted 10 times.” A tweet from @nickpraynerr shared by Hostile Politics

“Finally the whole country will watch as a woman stands politely listening to a loud man’s bad ideas about the field she spent her life in.” A tweet from Alexandra petri @petridishes shared by Being Liberal

“And now, a completely unprepared man will interrupt a highly prepared woman, 51 times, only to prove he actually has very little to say!” Ezra Klein sharing a video clip from Vox to prove it. Continue reading

Lift up women and you lift up everyone

History was made this week. For the first time, a woman was nominated by a major party for President of the United States. Nearly 100 years after women won the right to vote and 240 years after the founding ofcanstockphoto4392904 our country, Hillary Clinton has broken this barrier. Did you hear the glass breaking? I did and it was music to my ears.

Across this country, women have proven they can do anything a man can do in any field. Yet women lag behind in pay, in executive roles and are poorly represented in fields like technology. In a longitudinal salary assessment, HIMSS found that women’s share of health IT salaries for comparable jobs is smaller than it was ten years ago. That means we are losing ground!

I’ve written and spoken about this and will continue to do so. As I was quoted in a recent article, Removing the Glass Ceiling in Health IT, we need to be open about this problem. Naming a problem is the beginning of addressing it. I could sit back quietly but I won’t. I owe it to the next generation of women, my daughters and my granddaughters to speak up. I was influenced by the women’s movement of the 1970’s, so I know that if we don’t speak up, we will never make the changes we need.

At last year’s Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day, I was greeted by a 10-year-old boy with, “I thought only men were managers”. Continue reading

On being a grandparent

My fourth grandbaby was born this week. I helped out by taking care of his 19 month old big sister while his parents were at the hospital. Being able to be present to give this support to my daughters is one of canstockphoto17685636the reasons I started my next chapter back in January.

Why is it so important for me to spend time with my family as my four grandchildren grow up?  My father died when I was just 4 years old. His death left my mother to raise my 3 older siblings and me alone. Her parents lived 3 hours away.  We only saw them a few times a year – a 3 hour drive for a mom and four kids was a big deal back then. My father’s parents had died before my parents were married. And my own daughters grew up without grandparents. By the time my husband and I were in our 30’s, all of our parents were deceased. None of them lived to age 70.

As a professional woman, I have worked far more than 40 hours a week since my late 20’s and been in management since 1984. When I had babies, a 6-week maternity leave was the norm. Both my daughters went to infant programs in daycare centers when I went back to work. I learned that babies start to smile at their parents (and it’s not just gas) at around 6 weeks old. I realized that I would miss her first smile being back at work.

I treasure the times I have now with my grandkids. My daughters are appreciative of the help I can give but don’t want it to be a burden. I have heard people my age say being a grandparent is great but it’s really nice to be able to hand the kids back to their parents. Yes, kids are demanding and tiring when you are no longer young. Continue reading

Equal pay, who can argue?

My mother had to go to work to support four children after my father died from cancer. I was active in the women’s movement in my college years. So, I can’t imagine women not having a career outside the homecanstockphoto6033421 if they so choose or if they have to support themselves and their families.

Although I was very interested in math growing up, I got into IT somewhat by accident; I had wanted to be a math teacher. But in the late 70’s the field of computer science was exploding and there was an easy entry path. I went to a technical school and got a certificate in programming.  I learned to code in 7 different languages. I doubt that any of them are still remotely useful.  I didn’t work as a programmer for long but stayed on the IT path. I worked as an analyst for a while and then moved into management in 1984.

Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day (TODASTW) is coming up soon – April 28th. Last year, we had a very successful event at University of Michigan Health System and I’m hoping they are doing it again even bigger and better this year.  I’ve learned that we don’t do any TODASTW programs at UH. With everything else on my plate, I wasn’t going to try to start it in our IT department.

Technology is a significant part of our future – as workers and consumers. Technology jobs are some of the highest paying jobs. Continue reading

Do you know your big rocks?

April is a mixed month for me. No, I’m not talking about the fact that we had snow this week. In April, I celebrate many happy milestones, including my birthday and my wedding anniversary. Andcanstockphoto25793802 now, both my daughters have April wedding anniversaries. And the blooming daffodils along the road remind me that spring is finally here. 

Yet, there is always a sad part of April for me. My father died from Hodgkin’s disease on April 23rd, just a few days before my fourth birthday. Losing a parent as a child leaves a hole in your heart and shapes who you are.

Stephen Covey has a great story about “big rocks”. If you’re not familiar with it, just google it. Our families are our big rocks and my daughters remind me of that. And as little as they are, my grandchildren are also big rocks for me.  Every time one of my daughters calls me on FaceTime and I see a cute little toddler smiling at me from my iPhone, I fall in love with them all over again. Continue reading

Shattering the glass ceiling

No more hitting it, or even breaking it – let’s shatter it!

I’ve been vocal in urging more women to pursue technology careers and in supporting women as they face challenges moving up the ladder.canstockphoto28787142

HIMSS16 attendees can focus on many topics this year. I will be pursuing my passion for developing the next generation of leaders, especially helping women deal with barriers they face as we try to level the playing field.

I’m happy to be a voice for women – but I’m not alone.

  • On Tuesday at 10AM at the HIMSS Spot, the annual #healthITchicks meetup is happening. I’ll be one of the guest speakers along with Rebecca Freeman, Chief Nursing Officer at ONC and Dana Sellers, CEO at Encore. Jennifer Dennard, #healthITchicks founder, organizes monthly TweetChats on a range of topics as well as this annual meetup at HIMSS.  Join us for some interesting Q&A and networking!
  • On Wednesday at 2PM, I will be one of two female executives speaking at the Views from the Top Session – “Shattering the Glass Ceiling – Lessons Learned for Aspiring Female Executives”. I’ll be joined by Deanna Wise, Chief Information Officer at Dignity Health. Carla Smith, EVP at HIMSS will be the moderator. A similar session last year was a big hit with a large crowd so let’s make this year even bigger and better! Kate Gamble with HealthSystemCIO.com wrote an excellent preview of the session this week.
  • And in a two hour closed session on Monday morning, I will be one of six executive women that Carla has pulled together for a Women in HIT roundtable session. More than 900 women responded to a recent HIMSS / Healthcare IT News survey on the women’s professional needs in the health IT field.  According to Carla, those responding overwhelmingly wanted more recognition of female leaders, and more gender-focused resources that support networking, mentoring, and educational and career opportunities. She hopes that the roundtable will give HIMSS valuable input towards developing a year-round, comprehensive, and meaningful program to empower women, and to nurture the next generation of women leaders.

Continue reading

Tis the season to give back

I am committed to developing the next generation of leaders. I also give generously to non-profits that I care about. This week, those two passions converged.

I hosted a “lunch and learn” with five women from Cisco. Jay Roberts, director operations sales, has been a strong supporter of Michigan Council of Women in Technology (MCWT), like many leaders in technology companies. At the annual MCWT gala fundraiser in October, I donated a “lunch and learn” session. I offered to meet with four women over lunch to have an open discussion on women’s leadership issues. Jay bid it up until he had no more competition. He then went back to Cisco and recommended a group of women to participate.

The women who lunched with me all currently work in the sales division for this technology company. They have different backgrounds in terms of college experience, technology education, and family history. They shared their stories and challenges with me. I asked each of them what they wanted to get out of our two hours together. After all, they all had plenty of work to do back at the office.

They wanted to talk about: work life balance and making time for self; how to lead with assertiveness and compassion yet not mother staff; common mistakes women leaders make; and where best to focus their volunteer energy.

Continue reading

STEM for the holidays

GiftboxI keep my distance from the huge crowds shopping on Black Friday. And Cyber Monday comes way too soon for me. I usually wait until mid-December to actually do any gift shopping. The one gift I decide on early is the “perfect” book for everyone on my leadership team – a tradition I’ve had since my first CIO position. But I know that most people try to get a very early start.

I am committed to encouraging girls to pursue careers in STEM fields. I have spoken on women and technology to several different audiences over the past year, including keynoting at the Michigan Council of Women in Technology annual Executive Connection Summit in May. One part of my talk includes ideas for gifts starting with the very littlest ones through high school to encourage an interest in technology.

If you have any children on your gift list this year, consider some of these ideas that my staff specialist, Chris Greene, and I have found as we gathered information for the talk this past year: Continue reading