Learn from history but look to the future

Michigan Council of Women in Technology (MCWT) and #healthITchicks are two initiatives that focus on developing women in technology. As National Women’s History Month ends, I want to profile Women around CR tabletwo leaders who are committed to developing women in IT through these groups. Leaders who inspire others.

Jennifer Dennard founded the #healthITchicks community several years ago.  I asked her why she decided to start it, and she said, “I felt that women working in healthcare technology needed a dedicated social media space where they could network, learn, advise, and ultimately harness the tremendous energy and expertise they have in a way that would be beneficial to us all.”

Lofty as that sounds, she admits it may have been shortsighted.  She believes that, the women (and men) who have joined have helped the #healthITchicks community blossom into truly a force for good. So what have they accomplished?

The network has grown to over 550 people, and the hashtag has taken on a life all its own. Her efforts have provided a springboard to the many conversations about women working in health IT and technology at large.  Continue reading

Women’s History Month, not exactly a Hallmark card event!

It is the beginning of National Women’s History Month. It has been celebrated since 1987 but has its roots in International Women’s Day (March 8th)  which started in 1911. The National Women’s History Week canstockphoto35399887 herstorywas first declared by President Jimmy Carter in 1980.

This year’s theme is “Honoring Trailblazing Women in Labor and Business”. Last year’s theme was “Working to Form a More Perfect Union: Honoring Women in Public Service and Government”.

I doubt there are any greeting cards at the store to celebrate this month. But who needs a corny card. Women just want to be paid equally, afforded the same opportunities as men and recognized for their contributions in all aspects of life.

With the 2017 theme focused on business, you can learn more about the women being recognized this year at the National Women’s History Project.

They include:

  • Barbara Hackman Franklin, former Secretary of Commerce under President George H.W. Bush who served five presidents in various roles and led efforts to increase the number of women in government.
  • Alexis Herman, first African American to serve as Secretary of Labor and who led the effort to institute a global child labor standard. She also launched an aggressive initiative to help unemployed youth.
  • Lilly Ledbetter, equal pay activist whose long fight is reflected in the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act signed by President Obama in 2009.
  • Barbara “Dusty” Roads, flight attendants union leader who fought against the airline industry’s sexist working conditions and regulations in the 1950s and 1960s.
  • Norma Yaeger, first woman stockbroker to be permitted on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in the 1960s.

With my career focus on technology within healthcare, I want to highlight some women in technology and science I’ve learned about recently. Continue reading

Yes we can: women in health IT

Think about the little girls you know. Did they get even more dolls for holiday gifts? Or did they get toys and games that teach creative thinking and how to build things? Or did they maybe even get toys officiallycanstockphoto36568604 STEM labeled in the STEM category?

Social norms start young. I recently played a match game with my two-year-old granddaughter. When we matched the truck picture, she took it over to her 6-month-old baby brother as though it was his domain! This granddaughter and her two-year-old girl cousin have a variety of developmental toys. But when it’s free play, they are often clutching one of their dolls, whether it’s Princess Sofia the First or the newest Disney Princess Elena of Avalor. At least these characters are both confident, strong and compassionate princesses!

My four-year-old granddaughter isn’t as attached to dolls these days. After a break, she is back in dance class, my birthday gift to her. I know she loves it.  At Christmas, with her mother’s advice, I gave her 3 months of Koala Crate – a creative, educational activity box for 3-5 year olds. She loved the first box – making stuffed reptiles and learning about them.

You may be saying it’s all about exposing kids to a lot of different things. I agree. But it’s important to not fall into the gender norms when they are young.

Let’s fast forward from my 3 little granddaughters to some of the female leaders in our health IT industry. 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

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

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

Women and technology, part 2

I had the chance to deliver the opening keynote talk at the NG HealthCare US Summit two weeks ago. I was to fit a 20 minute talk between the salad and the entree at a dinner. The summit organizers said I could talk about whatever topic I wanted; I just had to be inspiring.

I titled my talk: “Our Future Workforce – Unlocking the Potential”. As I posed the problem in a recent post “Technology, where are all the women?,” I talked about the fact that not enough women are going into STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) fields. I have been particularly concerned with the drop in women entering computer related fields.

Why does this problem exist, what are some of the programs that are helping address it, and what can IT leaders do about it?

The IT leadership conference where I was speaking was about 75-80% men, so I thought there might be a risk with this angle on the future workforce. I am happy to say the talk was very well received.

Afterwards, men talked to me about their daughters – whether they are in college studying in a STEM field or in grade school interested in computers and robots. Women told me about their own Continue reading

Technology, where are all the women?

I have been hesitant to talk about women’s issues here, but I’ve been encouraged to do so by many women colleagues. They tell me I have a platform, so use it!  Young women tell me that I, a female CIO, am a role model and that they want to learn from me.18Percent

I’ll be doing an opening dinner keynote talk soon at an invitation only health IT conference. I plan to talk about unlocking the potential of our future workforce. So, what does that mean? Among other steps, we need to encourage more women to pursue careers in technology.

Here are some troubling statistics and trends: Continue reading