Paths to success: Women tech leaders share their perspectives

Women still make up a minority of the tech workforce, although the trend is decidedly shifting in a positive direction.

During a March 28 webinar hosted by Becker's Hospital Review and sponsored by Ensemble Health Partners, a revenue cycle management company, four women leaders discussed approaches, opportunities and perspectives for women interested in pursuing careers in technology. Panelists were:

  • Alex Allaire, associate vice president of technology operations, Ensemble Health Partners
  • Katie Allatt, vice president of operations strategy, Ensemble Health Partners
  • Nancy Phillips, chief information security officer, Ensemble Health Partners
  • Maggie Stremel, director of customer success, Janus Health

Four key takeaways:

1.) Early mentorship is crucial for turning casual interest in tech into a career choice. Between 2019 and 2022, female representation in large technology companies increased from 22.4 to 25 percent, according to research cited by Ensemble Health Partners. As more women consider a career in technology — including in healthcare technology — mentorship is one of the most important factors in making the leap, the panelists said. 

Finding a mentor does not need to follow a formal path. Ms. Phillips described how her specialization in cybersecurity began by happenstance while working as an auditor. The leader of her group noticed her interest in security protocols and offered to mentor her if she was interested in an information security career. "If it hadn't been for him seeing that there was some skill there and investing his time to develop that skill, I wouldn't have had the extraordinary career I've had in cybersecurity," Ms. Phillips said. 

2.) Building experience and confidence are key to overcoming "impostor syndrome." High-achieving women often doubt their own abilities and feel like frauds — a phenomenon known as "impostor syndrome." To overcome this, the panelists emphasized accepting the limits of one's knowledge and not being afraid to ask questions or solicit help when needed. Although it may sound counterintuitive, seeking information helps develop confidence. "Once I got to that place internally, other leaders started to see me as someone who deserves to be at the table and to value having me on the team and hearing what I had to say," Ms. Allaire said.

3.) Preparation and critical thinking will open doors in this male-dominated industry. Investing in oneself by acquiring specialized knowledge can help reduce the gender gap in technology and earn women a seat at the table because "knowledge is power and nobody can take that away from you," Ms. Phillips said. However, having a critical mindset is just as important as having a specific skill set. "If you can be a critical thinker, getting the skill sets in something specific like cybersecurity, automation or process mining comes naturally after the fact," Ms. Allatt said. 

4.) People, experiences and reflection influence women's career trajectories. Influences can come in various shapes and forms: They can be people who have mentored or otherwise helped along the way, individual moments or conversations, or an amalgam of discrete personal experiences and reflections over time that eventually morph together to form a coherent narrative. 

Ms. Stremel recalled an early conversation with her boss in which she undervalued her own role at the company, comparing it to the role of computer engineers, which she saw as more important. She was reminded that their roles were like two different languages. That conversation led her to shift her perspective: "It all comes back to learning what the common language is so you can work together using that and using your critical thinking skills for problem-solving," Ms. Stremel said.


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