Women in health IT: 'There is a need for role models'

Q.:Ms. Mathieu, you are the founder of the business network Women in Digital Health. What can you tell us about the workshop that you will be organising at the HIMSS, owner of Healthcare IT News, Swiss eHealth Summit on 11 September in Bern?

A.: With this workshop, we are targeting women from the digital health sector and inviting both service providers, such as doctors and medical professionals, as well as female CIOs, CEOs and founders from the health technology sector, and employees from the pharmaceutical and medtech sectors with jobs in the field of digital solutions and innovation. At the Hotel Schweizerhof Bern, we want to discuss the specific issues of women in connection with digitisation in the healthcare sector. The aim is to explore one's own possibilities and to face the challenges posed by digitisation, especially as a woman.

Q.: How would you describe the situation of women in health or in the areas of medical and health IT?

A.: On one hand, there are more women [in this industry] than people generally think. We support these women with visibility and networking opportunities. On the other hand, there are very few women founders in the field of digital health, especially in the startup environment.

Q.: Why do you think that is?

A.: Because there are relatively few women in the health technology sector, structural framework conditions play a role in addition to individual willingness to take risks: the compatibility of career and family is no walk in the park even in Switzerland. Many women are therefore more in search of stability, and setting up a startup is generally still associated with risk. In addition, there is a need for role models, successful founders who inspire and pass on their know-how.

Q.:What can women in the digital health sector in particular contribute?

A.: Not only the view of the other half of the world's population, but a holistic view in general. Creativity, intrinsic motivation, empathy, but also technical know-how are required. Of course, this is difficult to generalise, every person, regardless of gender, has his or her own strengths – but fundamentally we need lived diversity and a real engagement with the target group to improve the final results – whether it is a product, an app or an idea…

Q.:How can the proportion of women in the health IT industry be increased?

A.: For example through role models. But also by pointing out different possibilities and career paths and pushing women to take action against comfort and a possible Impostor syndrome: because many women have self-doubt regarding their own abilities, achievements and successes. We can do this by helping them to see and demonstrate their own self-efficacy, by stimulating networking and creating opportunities together, by working on public appearances and by raising basic awareness of the issue.

Anna Engberg is a Wiesbaden-based freelance journalist specialising in health and technology. The workshop "The X-Factor: Challenges of digitisation and how women can contribute to it" will take place as part of the upcoming Swiss eHealth Summit 2019 on 11 September in Bern, Switzerland. Healthcare IT News is a HIMSS Media publication.

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