How one health tech company is smashing the glass ceiling

Healthcare technology and EHR company Meditech is smashing the glass ceiling for its senior leadership team through flexible policies and internal hiring.

At Meditech, the CEO, COO, CFO and legal counsel are all women, and that's in addition to the three female vice presidents. With only 15 percent of healthcare CEOs identifying as female, company officials say they are proud to have turned the tables on the common gender balance in organizational leadership.

Michelle O'Connor, president and CEO, and Helen Waters, executive vice president and COO of Meditech, told Becker's they have been a part of and helped create a culture that assists the growth of female employees and shared advice for other execs in the field. 

Ms. O'Connor started her career in computer programming, working with mostly male peers. She was drawn to Meditech for its founders, who, according to her, valued talent and skill without taking into account demographic factors.

"I think this was a company, when I first came here, that very much judged the capabilities of a person based on performance," Ms. Waters said. "It wasn't difficult to be noticed if you were good at what you did." 

According to Ms. Waters, the founders recognized that employees, and in particular female employees, were bound to be pulled in different directions throughout various phases of their lives, whether that be parenthood or caregiving responsibilities. In response to this recognition, they created policies and a company culture that ensured that employees who had such other priorities outside of work were never reprimanded or fell behind others. 

"With early days of telecommuting, early days of part time work, there was a recognition that if you chose to take a step in your life that was going to distract you for a bit of time, that there would be no harm or detriment to your career as a result," she said. 

In fact, before Ms. Waters' promotion to vice president, she was serving a part-time role at Meditech. Ms. O'Connor said Ms. Waters was still promoted because her talent and hard work shined brighter than her hours spent at the office.

Creating this kind of culture takes intentionality, and Meditech has created a number of policies and programs that encourage an inclusive culture. One example is the requirement that those in leadership take a course on unconscious bias. 

"It's more on leadership to understand that they have preconceived notions and they have to look beyond that focus on performance and what that individual brings to the table, irrelevant of who their gender or their identity or anything like that," Ms. O'Connor said.

The company also makes an effort to promote internally, and rarely looks outside for recruitment of higher positions. Internal promotions help employees become invested in their future at the company and encourage the organization to invest in them with resources, training and development. The organization also emphasizes mentoring younger employees. 

They encourage other companies to listen to their employees to understand how they can best serve them. 

"Both Helen and I take time out of every month to make sure that we meet from the line level up through leadership and listen to them to evolve the company, the culture of the company, and constantly look out for those people," Ms. O'Connor said. 

They also advise being aware of statistics regarding diversity in leadership and across the company as a whole, which will then allow for intentional plans to be put in place to solve any discrepancies. 

"See what exists in the culture, ask good questions about the percentage of females versus males in leadership and what the philosophy is," Ms. Waters said.

Ensuring that workers are supported and can grow was one of the points that the two executives emphasized the most.

"You've got to be constantly nurturing and working with your team members while promoting meaningful work," Ms. O'Connor said.

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