HIMSS 2017: Women in Healthcare IT


From politics to playing fields, there is growing emphasis on gender equity and balanced perspectives in every field, and healthcare IT is no exception. For the third consecutive year, the 2017 HIMSS conference included a series of sessions focused specifically on Women in Healthcare IT. Cindy Hardin, Executive Director of Infrastructure and Ann McNulty, Director of Product Management attended several of these sessions in Orlando and shared their thoughts below:

You attended the panel entitled “Shattering the Glass Ceiling: Lessons for Aspiring Female Executives”. What part of the panelists’ experience resonated most closely with your personal experience?

Cindy Hardin:

“There were two points in particular that resonated with me. The first was that business today requires many consequential “micro-decisions” that benefit from a wide variety of perspectives and that in the opinion of one of the speakers (Ruben Amarasingham), women have a better aptitude for this kind of process. Another key takeaway for me was that “shattering the glass ceiling” is a job that takes both women and men. It’s critical for all leaders to speak up and take action when they notice gender disparity.”

Ann McNulty:

“Any business must represent all its constituents. It’s impossible to deliver technology that serves the needs of public health organizations if teams don’t represent the patients who are their customers.  If you don’t adopt what the panel described as a “full spectrum perspective,” you might overlook the needs of key customer stakeholders. For me, what that means when I’m developing products, is that I look for diversity in both the team members who are creating them and in the insights we’re getting from our customer partners. This balanced viewpoint is so important in healthcare where our products have clinical impact.”

Do you think being a female leader in IT brings with it any unique skills or attributes?

Cindy Hardin:

“One of the most valuable skills women can focus on developing is negotiation skills. My career path has been fairly diverse, and included sales, consulting and product management, so I feel fortunate that I’ve been able to develop a lot of experience in this area

Being in a leadership position means you have a responsibility to share your point of view and speak up when it’s necessary. But it’s also important to remember that not everyone will agree with that point of view. That’s why negotiation skills are so crucial – It is to ensure that you can articulate your point of view in a constructive way and so you can build consensus in diverse teams.”

Did the panel address work-life balance issues?

Ann McNulty:

“The panel described this concept more as work-life integration, since it’s so rarely an exact balance. Career advancement doesn’t typically unfold in a straight line, so at certain points, balance is much harder to achieve. They reminded us that no one can do everything, and not to beat ourselves up when we feel like we’ve slipped in one area or the other. These ideas weren’t new to me, but were great reminders.”

Did the panel offer any key themes or advice?

Ann McNulty:

“Three key pieces of advice that I heard were:

    1. Be intentional when you network and make sure you give as much to your network as you ask for.
    2. Be honest with yourself and make sure you want to take on additional responsibility.
    3. Move outside of your comfort zone. Most learning and career growth happen when you’re in a place that’s uncomfortable. “

Cindy Hardin:

“I enjoyed the themes around mentorship. Mentors are all around, but we should all have multiple mentors within our networks. And mentor/mentee relationships are give and take. As a mentee, you should bring something of value to the table and make sure you’re an active contributor. “

If you had to summarize the best piece of knowledge you got from this panel, what would it be?

Ann McNulty:

“Knowledge is power, and everyone needs to equip herself. Take every opportunity you can find to grow and learn, and then apply it to your own individual career journey.”

Cindy Hardin:

“It’s important to be confident and comfortable with who you are, and not to let your environment turn you into someone else. If you feel like you have to change yourself to fit in somewhere, that’s a good sign you’re probably in the wrong place.”

For more industry insight from health care and IT professionals, visit our Resources Page or catch us at an upcoming event.

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