Staff Development

5 Career-Boosting Steps for Women Health IT Professionals

September 18, 2017 3:57 pm

In today’s fast-moving healthcare IT sector, there are more opportunities than ever for passionate, dedicated leaders, so it may be surprising to know that women only hold 25 percent of today’s computing jobs. And, once women are in IT jobs, their longevity is limited, with women’s quit rate in high tech being double that of men. So, how can women gain a foothold in this rapidly changing landscape?

Step 1: Capitalize on your innate abilities

Women in health IT can leverage skills they may have learned at a young age. Young girls are often socialized to be patient, have good planning skills, and they learn early on how to help solve problems, organize projects, and listen intently. As a result, in high school, many girls and young women used day planners, set out what they needed for the next day of school, and were often the most prepared for group projects. These learned skills translate well into IT leadership for strategic planning, department organization, staff management, budget appropriations, and scheduling. 

Step 2: Don’t undersell your resume

When you contribute to projects, do you take credit, or do you underrate your efforts? Remember that organizations are looking for leaders who convey strength and confidence. One of the ways to demonstrate those qualities within your personal brand is on your resume with the words you use to describe your accomplishments. Could a specific project have succeeded without you? If the answer is no, do not be shy about stating it on your resume. Break down your accomplishments with tangible contribution statements, including metrics.   

Step 3: Prepare for the interview

Whether you’re applying for a new role within or outside your company, if you land an interview, research and plan for the meeting, and know your audience. Use social media and websites to better understand the interviewers, their passions, and pet peeves. Research the organization, the specific department you might be working in, and your potential role so you can anticipate and adapt to the work culture and expectations.  

Once you feel you’re adequately prepared, keep these key characteristics in mind to convey to employers during interviews:

  • Confidence lets people know that you understand yourself and how you relate to and influence others.
  • Determination ensures you will persevere through difficult times and in the face of major obstacles.
  • Social awareness means you can listen, observe, and then build relationships that will be beneficial to both you and the organization.
  • Instinct will help you manage risk. 

Step 4: Know your worth

The most common career mistake women make is automatically accepting the first salary offer. In fact, only 30 percent of women negotiate their salary, typically to avoid appearing greedy or to dodge an uncomfortable discussion. When accepting a new position, a better strategy is to approach these discussions with relevant salary research and a negotiation plan.

Practice your conversation ahead of time to gain confidence, whether it’s in front of the mirror or with a friend. Industry salary reports or career tools like Glassdoor’s Know Your Worth can also help you build your confidence and understand salary range based on peers who are similar in education, experience, location, and responsibilities.   

Keep in mind these negotiations are for a compensation package, not just money. If the employer won’t budge on a dollar figure, consider vacation days, allocation for conference attendance or training, or even flexible work hours as compensation components.

Step 5: Fill skills gaps with education

Continuous education is vital for up-and-coming HIT leaders, no matter their gender. Take advantage of industry networking events, training sessions, and professional associations to maximize exposure to industry trends and best practices.

New CIOs can consider the College of Healthcare Information Management Executives’ (CHIME) CIO Boot Camp for intensive, collaborative development. To stay up to date on industry change, it can be helpful to follow government regulation announcements and policy adjustments from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services ( CMS). HIT leaders should also take advantage of webinars, like the American Health Information Management Association’s (AHIMA) ICD-10 code update training for 2018, or the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) suite of e-mentor podcasts for additional educational opportunities. Of course, HFMA offers several pertinent financial management certifications, like the new Revenue Cycle Representative (CRCR) Certification Program. Show your commitment to career-building by seeking out education opportunities like these throughout the HIT industry to gain thought leadership insight, round out your portfolio, and establish your professional brand.

The HIT industry needs talented women leaders who remain confident in their abilities and are steadfast in their passion for this field. Present strategic, relevant examples of your accomplishments, tangible metrics of achievements, and proactive research to help you create the career you deserve.

Sheri Stoltenberg is founder and CEO of  Stoltenberg Consulting , a healthcare information technology (HIT) consulting firm. She has 35+ years of HIT professional experience and serves as an active member of the advisory board of the Dicke College of Business Administration at Ohio Northern University.


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