Women in Health Tech: Promoting a Culture of Equality

By Rae Esters Business Partner, PCCI

Since the 1960s, women have been hard at work carving out a space for themselves in the workforce. The US Department of Labor reports that women account for over 50% of the current labor force, but only 26% of those women hold occupations in the mathematical or technological industries[1].

Awareness of STEM fields is one issue that we know requires action in order to improve the low representation of women in health tech, but there are more factors that should be considered. With low probability for advancement and pay equity issues, it seems that those on the front line have a substantial amount of ground to cover.

Parkland Center for Clinical Innovation (PCCI), a non-profit healthcare technology research organization, is one of the entities on the front line. Currently, 60% of the organization is comprised of women, with 64% of those women holding leadership roles.  Conversations with said leadership offer more insight into the strategy PCCI employs to ensure that they are in the forefront of technology and the leaders of organizational change for women in Health IT.

Listen to this HIMSS STEPS to Value podcast with Ruben Amarasingham, MD, MBA, founder & CEO, PCCI, and member of the HIMSS North America Board of Directors.  He and James Deren, CPHIMS, PMP, director of IT planning, at CareTech Solutions, discuss Clinical Analytics and the Power of Perspective.

Opportunity for Advancement

Donna Persaud, MD, PCCI’s senior medical director and executive director of the Dallas Information Exchange Portal, provides clarity on why women are not first round picks when discussing advancement in the workplace.  

“The historical, political, and organizational landscape has always typically been framed around traits more inherent to males.  Women have entered the workforce, but because there is so much informality and contextual relational framing surrounding advancement, women are tasked with operating under rules that were created in such a way that ignored their unique strengths. This framing leaves women behind.”

Donna’s statement rings true.  Research conducted by LeanIn.Org shows across all organizational levels women are 15% less likely than men to get promoted. 

“Women’s strengths are largely collaborative and non-individually competitive, which is needed.  The work being done in the health information field requires collaboration, which supplies the foundation for true innovation.” 

McKinsey & Company research shows that organizations with three or more women on the executive board outperformed other companies on all measures of performance: leadership, direction, accountability, coordination and control, external orientation, capability, work environment, and values.  

How does PCCI adapt this mentality into their organizational culture?

Dr. Persaud believes “the values that structure the work that we do at PCCI are a large contributor when discussing the abundance of female staff.  When we say ‘Make Others Successful’ and ‘Teamwork Outweighs Individual Brilliance,’ we are creating an environment that amplifies the inherent strengths of women. Women feel comfortable working here, growing here, and are assured that their strengths and competencies will be valued here as well. The opportunity for advancement is not governed by gender-specific traits, but by the vision of our organization.”

Pay Equity for Women

PCCI has a work environment that cultivates the opportunity for advancement, but opportunity is irrelevant when compared to benefit realization in the form of equal compensation. Tawny Schaffer, PCCI’s vice president of finance, gives a high-level view into the decision making of PCCI leadership that ensures that all employees are compensated fairly and equally.

“PCCI has addressed any pay equity issues by implementing a process where every position is ranked and compared to the market place. We ensure that salary is consistent among jobs within a salary range by correlating salary increases with the education and experience of the participants.  Pay equality is not an issue for PCCI, because salaries are based on the description of the job being performed, not based on the person performing the job other than their education and qualifications.”

If education and experience are the driving factors of pay variation at PCCI, it is understandable that the staff is 60% female.  The United States Census Bureau reported in 2015, of women within the 25-34 age group, 37% have a bachelor’s degree or higher, while only 29% of men do.

With a combination of industry-focused values and structured pay standards, PCCI aims to set its organization up for success.  There is no affirmative action strategy to tip the scales in favor of women. In fact, there is no need for strategy at all, as this mentality is so entrenched within our culture.

Forecasted industry trends tell us that there will soon be a skillset need in all health tech organizations. The need for collaboration and higher emotional intelligence to really derive value from the work that we do—work that is technical and human in its largest breadth.  PCCI has recognized that need and created processes to ensure that professional women that respond to the calling of scientific tradition, are incentivized to stay.

A HIMSS17 Views from the Top Session

Session #13: Shattering the Glass Ceiling: Lessons Learned for Aspiring Female Executives | Monday, Feb. 20, 2017, 10:30-11:30 a.m.

Denise Hines, DHA, FHIMSS,PMP

Ruben Amarasingham, MBA, MD

Carla Smith, NCMN, FHIMSS

Learn More


Register now for HIMSS17 – and hear more about the career paths of these leaders in health IT.

[1] United States Department of Labor,  www.dol.gov/)



in health and IT meet.