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HIMSS16: Building Leadership in Health IT, One Woman at a Time (Part 2)

HIMSS16: Building Leadership in Health IT, One Woman at a Time (Part 2)

This is the second of two parts; read the first part here. Above, left to right: Carla Smith, Deanna Wise and Sue Schade in the “Shattering the Glass Ceiling” session at HIMSS16; photo courtesy of HealthcareITNews.

During HIMSS16, the #HealthITchicks Tweetup and an educational session titled “Shattering the Glass Ceiling: Lessons Learned for Aspiring Female Executives” documented the challenges of being a female in a male-dominated field, and offered aspiring executives strategies to close gender-based disparities in health IT.

At the session, University Hospitals Health System (Cleveland, Ohio) interim CIO Sue Schade joined Deanna Wise, executive vice president and CIO at Dignity Health (San Francisco), and moderator Carla Smith, executive vice president of HIMSS, to talk more about women and their role in health IT. The conversation echoed the themes in the  Tweetup (catalogued in the first part of this two-part post). Schade took a slightly different angle to the mentorship idea, suggesting that women should find a male colleague whom they can trust and learn from.

Wise said she felt that women don’t boast about themselves enough in healthcare; that needs to change if they ever plan to reach parity. A woman should market herself as an individual. “Persistence often pays off,” she said.

At the same time, women should balance their logical and emotional sides while aiming to be genuine, transparent and accessible to colleagues. Creating strong ties with coworkers and customers will be especially helpful when the inevitable unpleasant situations occur that often precipitate tense conversations. For example, when negotiating salary, it’s how genuine one is and how specific with details that will move the needle.

“In our field of IT, there will be times when things don’t go right, I know that’s shocking,” said Wise. “But if you have relationships with your customers, if you have relationships with your peers or people above you, you can get through most of the rocky road.”

Separately, I spoke with Lysa Myers, senior security researcher at ESET, and Experian Health Chief Marketing Officer Cindy Dullea’s. Their advice to other women who are starting their careers, whether they be in the military, healthcare and/or tech sector?

“Take chances, even though [or perhaps because] it may take you out of your comfort zone. Set your vision and strategy, and execute on them,” Dullea said.

Myers wasn’t always in the tech sector. In fact, she was a self-professed biological “taxonomy nerd” and almost went into landscape architecture for a career. Fast forward several years when she landed a job as an office manager’s assistant for McAfee, and that was the beginning of a career in security research. Myers has also built up her chops in healthcare IT, and has attended the last three HIMSS conferences.

The best advice Myers ever received about working in the tech sector was to not put up with situations that made you miserable.

“A little [or a lot] of stress is part of the job, as emergencies are just par for the course,” Myers said. “But dealing with coworkers who misbehave isn’t something anyone should have to endure. Have someone in HR or in management that you can go to, to talk about things that are bothering you. Don’t wait until you’re ready to flip the metaphorical table and leave. Perhaps the person causing problems didn’t know that it was bothering you, and would gladly stop…or perhaps it’s something other people are also bothered by as well.

“You don’t have to start in the career you end up in. More people are coming into tech and healthcare from other disciplines. That doesn’t mean you’re any less qualified, it simply means you have a different perspective, which is something any industry very much needs.”

One principle for success applies to both women and men, as Wise noted in the “Glass Ceiling” session: “Surround yourself with great people and you can keep doing great things.”

It’s never too early to prepare for HIMSS or any trade show. Call for speakers for HIMSS17 comes out on May 2. If you would like to talk with us about conference planning and PR activities, feel free to contact Davida Dinerman or Doug Russell at 781-684-0770 or email us at or

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Davida Dinerman

Davida Dinerman

Account Director at MSLGROUP

A member of MSLGROUP since 1996, Davida has been entrenched in the agency’s healthcare IT and tech practice groups. She earned her MBA from Babson College and her BA degree from Dartmouth College.

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