In a salary survey that the American Health Information Management Association conducted in 2011, 1.7 percent of responding HIM women and 4.3 percent of responding men were holding executive positions at their organization.

The glass ceiling closes at the HIM departmental level, where 92 percent of the workforce is female, says Merida Johns, president at the Monarch Center for Women’s Leadership Development in Woodstock, IL. On October 28, Johns will make a return visit to the annual AHIMA Conference in Atlanta. Her message: Break the glass. “Leadership is rooted in yourself, who you are and not trying to be someone else.”

As anyone working in health care knows, gender diversity at higher professional levels is a challenge. In recent years, only 18 to 22 percent of hospital CEOs were women, and the number is about 4 percent in other health care companies, Johns says. There are differences between how men and women lead. Women tend to have less confidence and career clarity, and don’t have equal access to mentoring and sponsorship, Johns says. At a recent conference, a female HIM pro told Johns that she has two Masters Degrees and there’s so much opportunity on where to go, but was fuzzy on the details. A male HIM pro had a Bachelor’s Degree and was clear on where he wanted to go--the CFO’s office.

Women, Johns contends, need to know their strengths and how to leverage them to build confidence, have a clear vision of their purpose, amass social capital by networking, develop a brand on how they want to be perceived, and then seek the opportunities and not wait for them to come. “If you take the view that leadership is rooted in who you are, you can fulfill your potential. The glass ceiling can be shattered.”

Education session 10257, “Breaking the Glass Ceiling…Are You Up for the Challenge?” is scheduled at 4:30 on October 28.

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