5 female CIOs share their advice for young women in STEM

Katie Adams - Print  | 

The number of U.S. women who received degrees for science, technology, engineering and mathematics has increased 66 percent since the 2008-2009 academic year, according to the latest data from the U.S. Department of Education. 

However, the 237,874 STEM degrees women earned during the 2017-2018 academic year accounted for just 32 percent of total degrees in the field. Barriers still lie ahead for women and girls who want to pursue STEM careers, but they're surmountable.

Below, five female hospital and health system CIOs from across the country share their advice for young women looking to enter the field. 

Kristin Myers, CIO, Mount Sinai Health System (New York City): STEM is an area of exponential growth and provides limitless opportunities for those entering the field to excel and make a difference. At the same time, it can also be challenging for young women, and I'd like to share some advice from my experiences. 

Be yourself. Sounds easy, but can end up being difficult as you may experience conscious or unconscious bias (against gender, race, age, etc.) that may impact you. Each individual brings a unique and fresh perspective, so do not be afraid to express yourself. Do not let others define you.  

Be innovative. What makes STEM so interesting is that it is constantly changing and evolving.  Be creative and think outside the box. Thinking innovatively differentiates you.  

Keep learning. There is no end to learning, so always take up any opportunities to learn new skills and explore new areas. Keep up to date on the latest trends, technologies and news.

Be confident. Always strive to look, feel and portray confidence. Believe in yourself, your capabilities and the value you bring to the table.

Deanna Wise, CIO, Banner Health (Phoenix): Don’t think of yourself as a young woman entering the field — think of yourself as a competent individual, and recognize that you can do anything that you set your mind to do. Have the courage to realize that if others can do it, you can too!

Renee Fosberg, vice president and CIO, Emerson Hospital (Concord, Mass.): More and more, organizations are seeing the value of diversity, and there has never been a better time for women to take that leap. Women can sometimes be their own worst enemy and hold themselves back because they don’t give themselves enough credit.

Two key pieces of advice for women starting their career are 1) promote your accomplishments because they are meaningful and 2) find a mentor, someone to guide you along the way.    

I encourage women — at any level in their career — to take more risks. Stop the self-imposed requirement of needing to "check off all the boxes" before going after something. Chances are, you are the smartest, most qualified person for the task at hand!

Tanya Townsend, senior vice president and CIO, Louisiana Children's Medical Center Health (New Orleans): My advice would be to take every opportunity to network, and don’t be intimidated that you will likely be outnumbered by your male counterparts within the network. Networking is invaluable to any professional's career, but even more crucial to a woman in the STEM field. Having a strong network of peers and mentors helped me to learn and grow faster and further than I would’ve imagined upon graduation from college. Also don’t be afraid to be a pioneer and blaze a trail for future technologies!

Tamara Havenhill-Jacobs, CIO, Bozeman (Mont.) Health: Know that there is a place for you in this field. Discover and develop a network of other women to establish both peer and mentor relationships that you can leverage for feedback, guidance and support. As you mature in your career, continue to share your experience with other women to encourage them in a similar way.

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