In today's healthcare information age, a segment largely made up of men is seeing more women rise to key roles as health IT executives. Many of these women are coming to HIT out of clinical roles within healthcare organizations.
“There are many people who were born to be either caretakers or motivators. I was born to be both,” said Liz Johnson, MS, FCHIME, FHIMSS, CHCIO, RN-BC, Chief Information Officer of Acute Care Hospitals & Applied Clinical Informatics for Tenet Healthcare in Dallas. Johnson is one of an increasing number of women in top IT positions at healthcare organizations.
As CIO, Johnson oversees the health IT at 84 Tenet hospitals across the nation. In 2015, Tenet Healthcare recognized Johnson with a special leadership award to honor her team's successful completion of the original scope of the IMPACT program, Tenet's EHR initiative, on time and under budget. Johnson is also a member of the College of Healthcare Information Management Executives (CHIME) board of trustees.
While women—many of them nurses—are making their mark, they still have a ways to go.
Recent salary survey information from the Healthcare Information and Management System Society (HIMSS) found significant differences in compensation between genders in HIT positions. The average salary for healthcare workers in executive, management and other professional positions topped $111,000 in 2015, though there is an almost $30,000 gap between what men and women earn in the field.
Men, on average, earned $126,262, compared to $100,762 for women in the survey of 1,900 healthcare professionals that includes CEOs, CIOs, IT project managers, sales professionals and those with clinical titles such as CMIO and clinical systems analyst.
In management roles, HIMSS found that first-year compensation for women was 63 percent of that of men, and it takes females more than 15 years in the same role to achieve income parity with men. Some in the industry fear that such a significant pay gap may cause women with leadership aspirations to pick another industry for their careers. HIMSS data also shows that men fill 31 percent of top management roles, compared with only 14 percent of women.
Still, there’s been significant growth in opportunities for women in HIT leadership roles. While information technology is more complex and diverse than ever, top healthcare IT executives are not just technicians. They need a variety of skills to manage projects, relationships, communications, staff and efficiency initiatives, working with many diverse constituents within healthcare organizations. This makes nurses highly qualified and well suited for a HIT leadership position.
Enticing more women to consider information technology careers is part of a bigger challenge in healthcare today. Healthcare organizations need to be more aggressive in recruiting women to fill IT roles.
Health Data Management recently honored 75 of the Most Powerful Women in Healthcare IT. The awards were broken into three categories: thought leaders, provider/payer executives, and CIOs/IT leaders. To view the slideshow of healthcare IT women, click here.
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