Women in healthcare leadership has been a recurring topic in recent years, and deservedly so. Increased media attention has shined a spotlight on the lack of female representation on executive teams in both provider and healthcare IT settings. Regrettably, some studies suggest that the wage gap between women in HIT and their male peers has widened during the past decade.
As co-founder and managing partner at a national HIT consulting firm, I’m frequently the only female in the board room—a personal testament to the dearth of women leaders not only in healthcare but in technology as well. My awareness of gender disparity patterns in our field prompted me to wonder what our own research might reveal about gender-related trends in the HIT workforce. The insights that follow were gleaned from survey responses to our 2017 Healthcare IT Market Report .
Our study, now in its fifth year of production, polled HIT workers in full-time (35 percent of respondents) and contract/consulting positions (65 percent) about their compensation plans, benefits, and motivations as HIT professionals. Among the 836 respondents to our survey, roughly 60 percent were female and 40 percent were male. This marks the first year we’ve seen survey participant rates shift from what has traditionally been an even split among men and women.
Here are a few observations culled from the longitudinal data:
- Since the Q4 2014 survey, the number of women making $100k or more increased from 30 percent of women surveyed to 40 percent of women surveyed in Q4 2016.
- Women are staying in healthcare IT. In 2014, women who’d been in the field for six years or more made up 55 percent of the surveyed workforce, but by 2016 they made up 70 percent. In 2016, 66 percent of all respondents indicated they’d worked in HIT for six years or longer.
- There was a 16 percent bonus-earnings decrease over the past three years among women. In 2014, 43 percent of women reported receiving a bonus while only 37 percent did in 2016. Forty percent of all HIT employees surveyed reported receiving some type of bonus in 2016.
- The percentage of women in healthcare IT reporting more than 21 days of time off per year has remained relatively consistent since 2014 (between 63 and 68 percent), but the number of women reporting 26 days off or more has increased by 19 percent in that same period.
It may be the case that blossoming salary rates and/or increased benefits, by way of things like additional time off, are ebbing bonus earnings out as a primary employee retention driver. We’re seeing a trend among both consultants and direct-hire professionals seeking the flexibility of working from home in pursuit of better work-life balance. Coupled with the growing length of tenure among women in HIT, the data suggest that time off and career stability are high priorities among women in the field. Remote-work flexibility ranked among the top four benefits enjoyed by survey participants across the board, on the heels of insurance, training reimbursement, and 401(k) offerings.
Perhaps the modest climb in the number of females in these roles is helping to usher in the public dialogue about what it might take to elevate additional women into HIT and other healthcare leadership positions. Certainly, there is a growing constituency of advocates in the industry who are interested in making sure the female perspective is present in the business of healthcare. We support grassroots initiatives like the #HealthITchicks community and HFMA’s Women Lead HERe initiative in our efforts to help elevate women’s voices in an industry where, ironically, women make up the majority of healthcare decision-makers on the consumer/patient side.
There is still quite a bit of ground left to cover on our journey toward equality, but I’m optimistic that my and others’ efforts to professionally mentor women in the field and our collective effort to keep the topic of gender parity top of mind will continue to pay off. We certainly have nothing to lose and much to gain by lifting one another up.
Rachel Marano is managing partner for Pivot Point Consulting , a Vaco Company.