Growing Grand Canyons and Other #HIMSS17 Reflections

It’s the Sunday after #HIMSS17, which for most conference-goers means you’ve made it home, had a few good nights’ sleep, and are already thinking about how to make it through that final stage of #HIMSSanity – the follow-up. Though my desk is piled high with business cards, receipts, and what seems like an overwhelming post-conference to-do list, I can’t help but sit down for a few minutes to gather my thoughts and reflect on the women-centric themes I encountered during my four days in Orlando.

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The Booth Babe Phenomenon
Unlike in years past, I didn’t hear of or come across any, which I think speaks to the efforts HIMSS is making to promote gender equality and a higher level of social consciousness around the issue. Though Doyenne Connections founder Max Stroud did alert me to one exhibitor looking for a booth “model,” I didn’t encounter any booth reps – male or female – who seemed to be hired talent. (Granted, I didn’t stop by every booth, either.) I was disappointed, however, that one company had their female employees adorned with Minnie Mouse ears. No Mickey ears for the guys? Having been a booth rep in years past, I understand the need to have a little fun; however, companies should make it a point to get everyone in on the wackiness rather than leaving it up to just the ladies.

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Attendance and Programming
Registered attendees hovered around the 42,000 mark, which I’m sure is a record or near record level of attendance. I’m not sure of the gender break down, or how many attendees were providers with decision-making capabilities. I’d especially like to know how many speakers were female versus male, and if that’s an improvement or a disappointment when compared with previous HIMSS. I’ll be reaching out to HIMSS for these figures and updating accordingly.

I do know that we had a ton of new faces – men and women – at our annual meetup. I also know the health IT social media community can be a bit insular, so it was nice to hear new voices contributing to the conversation online and in real life.

glassceiling

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Salary Negotiation Skills are a Must
Given HIMSS’ focus last year on the widening wage gap between men and women, it wasn’t too surprising to hear many conversations this year emphasize the need for better salary negotiating skills. What did surprise me was that it was a topic that came up in every session and/or prolonged conversation I had that focused on women working in healthcare technology.

I’ve posted many an article on the topic to our LinkedIn group, including:

The wage gap won’t close if women don’t learn how to ask for more, and so salary negotiating skills need to become a part of our toolkit if we’re ever to see this problem rectified. It should definitely be the focus of an upcoming #healthITchicks tweetchat. I am giving serious consideration to hosting some kind of workshop on the topic later this year.

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Growing Grand Canyons

As a judge for the inaugural HIMSS Most Influential Women in Health IT Award, I had the privilege of sitting in on the association’s annual roundtable focused on women’s issues. This year’s table was filled with my fellow judges and award winners. Needless to say, I was all ears as to the impact they feel this ongoing awards program will have on their colleagues. Each and every one of them touched on the need to reach back and help younger women rising in the ranks. Many shared past experiences with a higher-up female colleague who felt threatened by their up-and-coming success. All noted that they had gotten into this business to help others.

While the words of wisdom flew fast and furiously, it was the poetic and powerful imagery shared by DoD Acting Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs Karen Guice, MD that really stuck with me. She likened the progress we are making to the Grand Canyon – a natural wonder formed over millenia by the constant rushing of water. We need to be that water, she advised, always constant, always consistent in our efforts to make women in healthcare technology feel valued at every stage of their professional journey.

I came away from that roundtable, and from HIMSS as a whole, with a number of action items for the #healthITchicks community. It’s time to move beyond tweet chats into actions that will impact women’s lives, both personally and professionally. The Grand Canyon we know today wasn’t formed overnight, and so it stands to reason that the changes we wish to see for women in our workplace won’t happen quickly. I would like to think, however, that if we work together, we can make a difference sooner rather than later.

How would you like to see the #healthITchicks community harness our growing grassroots energy to make a difference in the lives of women in 2017? Please share your action items in the comments below.

 

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