Healthcare is similar to many other industries because women face inequality in the workplace, but there are encouraging signs that gaps in pay and opportunities are beginning to close, said Jennifer Joe, MD, during a session at Health Data Management’s recent Most Powerful Women in HIT conference.

Several studies point to the same conclusion—gender gaps exist in pay and opportunity, said Joe, who is editor-in-chief of MedTech Boston and also is the founder of Medstro.com, a social network for physicians.

For example, a study released by HIMSS in March found that female health IT workers earn an average salary of $101,000, almost 25 percent less than the average of $126,000 earned by males in the healthcare IT industry.

Jennifer Joe, MD
Jennifer Joe, MD

The research also found that first-year female health IT execs and senior managers receive just 63 percent of the compensation of men in the same position. Further, HIMSS data show that it takes them an average of 15 years to close that salary gap in executive pay.

Income disparity also is an issue for women physicians, who get paid on average $167,000 annually, compared with about $200,000 for male physicians, Joe stated.

But there recent data also suggest some progress in narrowing disparities. A Rock Health study, she noted, reveals that funding for female innovators improved in 2015. Of 28 active investors, 16 invested in women-led companies, a 25 percent increase from 2014.

However, innovative projects led by men get more funding, receiving an average of $13.9 million, compared with $12.1 million for women, Joe said, and those differentials in funding are not necessarily because men are better innovators. In a recent healthcare innovation hackathon at MedTech Boston, women leaders of start-up companies comprised 50 percent of the winners.

NASA recently spent four years trying to encourage more women to go into technology fields, Joe said. What the agency found was that women want safe places to explore topics in a friendly and supportive environment, and they want to be heard. Too often, women must say the same thing two or three times before really being listened to by their male counterparts, she contends.

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