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Five Career-Boosting Steps for Women Health IT Professionals

By Sheri Stoltenberg

In today's fast moving healthcare IT sector, there are more opportunities than ever for passionate, dedicated leaders. Though women's participation in the labor force has greatly expanded over the past 70 years, women only hold 25 percent of roles in today's big tech companies. Even more startling, once women attain IT jobs, statistics show that their longevity is much more limited, with the quit rate of women in high tech double that of men, especially considering the pandemic's burden on balancing careers and caregiving. So how can women gain footing in this landscape?

As a female health IT leader and entrepreneur with more than 35 years of experience in the industry, I recommend the following five tips to propel your IT leadership career path forward.

  1. Believe in yourself
    Within our culture, men typically are told from a very young age that they can do anything. Why can't women? There will be hurdles, but aren't the best things in life those that you worked the hardest for? Women in health IT can work beyond gender roles learned from a young age.

    While men in the workforce may inherently hold the attitude to conquer and win, women can adopt the same stance, often with a more measured approach. For example, from a young age, women may have been raised with an emphasis on patience, planning and how to help solve, organize and listen. With initiative, these learned skills translate well into IT leadership for strategic planning, department organization, staff management, budget appropriations and scheduling.

  2. Never undersell your resume
    When you contribute to projects, do you take credit, or do you understate your efforts? Remember that organizations are looking for leaders who convey strength and confidence. One of the ways to represent that within your personal brand is your resume and the words used to describe your accomplishments.

    Could a specific project have succeeded without you? If the answer is “no,” do not be shy about selling it on your resume. Break down your accomplishments with tangible contribution statements, including metrics.

    In doing so, be careful not to submit the same resume for each new opportunity. If there is a job description, make sure you relate your career achievements and experience to it. Even if the new position is within your current organization, interviewers are not mind readers. Resume content needs to clearly demonstrate your skills in alignment with each opportunity.

  3. Prepare for the interview
    Whether applying for a new role within or outside your company, if you land an interview, research and plan for the meeting. Know your audience. In today's society that shares everything imaginable on social media, use it effectively to better understand the interviewers, their passions and pet peeves. Research the organization, the specific department and your potential role, so you can adapt to the work culture and expectations.

    During the interview, dress professionally, but comfortably. You don't want to appear stiff or stifled, even if it's a virtual interview. The last thing you want to do is have interviewers focus on your outfit. They need to be centered on your personality, communication, abilities and passion for the organization and position.

    Health IT Interview Tips
    With adequate preparation, keep in mind these key characteristics to convey to employers during interviews:
    • Confidence lets people know that you understand yourself and others.
    • Determination ensures you will persevere through difficult times and 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 to manage risk.
  4. Know your worth
    The most common career mistake women make is automatically accepting the first salary offer. In fact, according to Salary.com, only 30 percent of women negotiate their salary at all, 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 salary calculator can also help you build your confidence and understand pay range based on peers similar in education, experience, location and responsibilities.

    In these negotiations, know where employers may take advantage of you. Don't reveal your previous salary figure if a potential employer asks. Simply say it's not relevant or confidential. Likewise, don't share personal information just to fill awkward silence, and avoid using non-professional reasons to validate your worth.

    At some point, the employer will likely push back at your salary request. A sound response is to provide relevant, measureable examples of your value showing how you have, or can provide, ROI that justifies the requested salary or raise.

    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.

  5. Fill skill gaps with education
    Continuous education is vital for up-and-coming HIT leaders. Take advantage of industry networking events, training sessions and professional associations to maximize exposure to industry trends and best practices.

    New CIOs and IT directors 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, follow government regulation announcements and policy adjustment from CMS. Advancing HIT leaders should also take advantage of resources, like the American Health Information Management Association's (AHIMA) interactive Career Map or the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) suite of workforce skills and career growth on-demand webinars, for additional educational opportunities. Additionally, the Healthcare Finance Management Association (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.

Although males in IT outnumber women, stay confident in your abilities and passion. Don't let gender identity stereotypes shield your career opportunities. Instead, present strategic relevant examples of your accomplishments, tangible metrics of achievements and proactive research that to help you land the career you deserve.

As the CEO of Stoltenberg Consulting, Sheri Stoltenberg 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.

Stay tuned for additional health IT leadership insights via the Stoltenberg blog.

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