HIMSS16: Addressing gender gaps in wages and access to management, C-suite roles

HIMSS research suggests "sector unconsciously employs an unbalanced reward system favoring males"

LAS VEGAS -- Although gender disparity is a problem across all industries, the gaps seem especially pronounced in the health IT field. One only has to look around any room where health IT professionals are gathered to see it.

But the Healthcare Information Management and Systems Society says it will work to level the playing field for women when it comes to wages and access to upper management and executive positions. 

This year's annual HIMSS leadership survey, released yesterday at the group's annual meeting, included additional analysis from the group's 2015 compensation survey.

To attract and retain the best IT employees, healthcare employers must carefully consider compensation and career pathways, according to a summary report.

"When it comes to health IT workers, there is cause for concern in both areas," it states. Based on HIMSS survey findings, "it is very possible our sector unconsciously employs an unbalanced reward system favoring males."

There's a "huge disparity" in gender across senior management and executive leadership roles: Only 14 percent of females in the survey are represented at those levels, compared to 21 percent of males. And non-executive women earn about 80 percent of what men in the same roles make.

Over time, salaries do increase for both men and women. "But women never reach parity," Carla Smith, executive vice president of HIMSS America, said at a press event here yesterday.

But what can a professional organization--even one the size of HIMSS--do to solve a problem that is so entrenched? It starts with more research and raising awareness, Smith said. "Sunlight is a great disinfectant."