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Women finding success in health tech sphere
11 Jul 2018
Women have been working in health care as far back as the first midwife. With the recent advent of technology in the industry, though, women have not filled the health care technology sector as much.
Recent studies show nuanced data on women within the overall health care sector. A Utah Women & Leadership Project report earlier this year found less females in executive level positions across all industries, but noted that there are more of them in health care arena. A recent Wells Fargo Economic Group report, “Making Strides: Women-Owned Businesses on the Rise,” found that the highest percentage of female-owned businesses are in the health care sector.
In the health tech realm, though, where coding and software platforms provide business solutions for health providers and workers, women still are breaking through invisible walls — but the women who are already making these strides say it’s a great industry to be in.
Stephanie Simmons, vice president of people and culture at Solutionreach in Lehi, said women are the untapped talent pool in the health tech industry. Among other skillsets, the field requires both empathy and critical thinking skills — two traits many women naturally have.
“Women often migrate to fields that develop those critical thinking skills, and if those skills can be combined with tech skills, women can do well,” Simmons said.
Solutionreach specializes in a patient relationship management software platform, which Simmons said could be a great fit for women.
“One of the reasons people like to work at Solutionreach is because we have really cool technology and we’re also delivering health care solutions. That matters to people here,” Simmons said.
Monique Rasband, vice president of research, imaging and oncology at Klas Research in Provo, echoed that sentiment. She loves the work Klas does within the industry, providing health care informational technology data and insights to health care providers and their computer software vendors.
“I love working with our health care providers. They can tell us the problems they have with their technology and we collate that for vendors,” Rasband said. Rasband added that the desire to make a difference for people and the love of doing so is essential in health care tech businesses.
Her colleague, Jenifer Gordon, director of data quality and education at Klas, added that women bring a unique perspective to the tech sector because many women’s thought processes are different from men’s. Those perspectives can inform important decisions that ultimately affect patient care or how patients and caregivers interact. This ultimately affects the individual patient, leading to better patient experiences and outcomes.
All these women say there needs to be more education, mentoring and a change in attitudes about the overall tech sector, to encourage women to be aware of and confident in those fields.
“There is no longer male and female careers. Everyone can be in any career,” Gordon said.
Simmons and Gordon both believe exposure to science, technology, engineering and math fields needs to start at a young age, and both schools and businesses need to lead the way in partnering. Young girls especially need to see women who work in these roles, and have mentors who help them visualize being in these fields and navigating the paths to them.
“I think for women, having role models is crucial,” Gordon said.
Mentoring by both male and female leaders is also essential, Rasband pointed out. She’s benefited from both, and credits her mentors for helping her see her value and abilities to work in the field. Rasband suggested that women should not feel afraid to ask for mentorship.
Men need to take part in this, and all those in leadership need to rid themselves of the unconscious bias “about women in supervisory or promotion roles,” Simmons said. Simmons and Rasband also feel women need to understand they have important value within the STEM fields as well.
“Females usually feel like they have to match everything in a job description or they don’t apply,” Rasband said, explaining that many times men will still apply to a job where they might be missing some skills. Women need to do that as well. “I would tell women to be brave, to look outside the box and your comfort zone. Don’t let exact matches hold you back.”
Simmons hopes women will also value their earning power more highly. She said she’s seen too many women make decisions at the college level based on the thinking that they are going to be secondary wage earners. This can lead to moving into lower paying careers, or missing out on advancement opportunities.
Simmons explained that women should not think of their future as being a career versus home life. As a single mother of four, she is an experienced primary wage earner, and believes women can manage a home and a successful career.
Businesses can also be instrumental in drawing women in, and all these women feel like their health care tech companies are doing a good job of this. Simmons pointed to recent Solutionreach changes in paid parental leave policies that “level the playing field” for men and women. Rasband explained that Klas offers flexible scheduling to keep its working mothers in the industry.