Women’s Leadership in Health IT

One of my favorite health IT leaders is Sue Schade. She’s someone who has great leadership qualities and can also dive deep into the health IT weeds. If you haven’t read her blog, you should take a second to check it out. I recently ran into her and learned about a new iniative she was working on to help support women leaders in healthcare IT called C-change. I had to learn more about what she was doing.

In the following interview, Sue Schade MBA, FHIMSS, FCHIME, LCHIME, Principal at StarBridge Advisors, LLC and Gale Thompson, MBA, MA, MSS, LSW, PCC, Advisor at StarBridge Advisors, LLC share more details on their efforts to support women leaders in health IT through their C-change initiative.

Q: What is C-change?  What’s the mission and goal of C-change?

Sue and Gale: A leadership and career coaching initiative for women in health IT at all stages of their career lifespan.  Our mission is to enable women to occupy 50% of the positions at all rungs of the health IT leadership ladder by supporting them to develop the internal resources and external career guidance needed to evolve their leadership and impact.  The higher you go in your career, the less it’s about functional expertise and the more it’s about effectiveness in leading yourself and others.

Q: Why is it called C-change?

Sue and Gale: We aim to have an impact on 3 types of “c-related” changes:

  • Sea-Change – (definition: a profound or notable transformation) in health IT leadership
  • See-Change – seeing the change in leadership style to one that is “power with” and brings out the best in people
  • C-suite Change – we want to see women occupy at least 50% of healthcare CIO positions and all the roles along the way

Q: What did you see and experience in your career that you decided that this was needed?

Sue: Things have changed significantly, and for the better, since I started in health IT management over 30 years ago. Men are far more supportive of women now. Men and women share more family responsibilities. Company policies are more family friendly. Women are given more opportunities and encouraged to advance their careers. But, we still have a long way to go.

There is still a difference in how women are viewed compared to men. Words such as bossy, aggressive, or emotional are used to describe characteristics and behaviors in women that would be considered strong leadership in a man. Men are considered for a new position based on their ability to stretch and learn something new vs women are often selected when they’ve already their demonstrated their abilities.

And women in IT are still often the only woman at the table or in the room. While women may lack confidence in themselves, being the “only” can make it that much harder. We want the next generation to take advantage of opportunities from a place of confidence and internal strength.

Gale: For all the work experience and Master’s degrees I accumulated (including an MBA from Wharton), the emphasis was generally on content/technical skills needed to be successful rather than being taught/supported to cultivate the awareness and practices needed to manage/lead from the inside out.  My direct and proactive style wasn’t always appreciated or effective in work and life but I didn’t know how to do it differently while still being me.

Let’s face it, what’s valued and appreciated in male leadership doesn’t work so well for women, given the lingering expectation biases in our culture. So, we need to do strength and connectedness slightly differently to be effective while being authentic and satisfied.

I’ve learned there’s inside work to be done to make the most of who you are and what you bring to respond to the needs of the situation and people involved in ways that work better for you and them.  My experience is that such learning is best done through coaching which provides the space, focus, attention, and follow-up to really look at what’s going on inside and what impact it’s having outside. For me, those areas of focus include: knowing and skillfully using your Strengths; effectively managing your reactivity; evolving strategies that enable you to move beyond either/or answers to those that leverage the best in yourself and others to co-create great solutions.  So, I’m seeking to inform/support female leaders to learn these skills and lead the charge in developing a leadership approach that is grounded, strong, connected, and taps inner and outer wisdom.  The world in general, and health IT in specific, really need such leaders for the work ahead.

Q: What do you hope women will gain as leaders from the coaching you’re offering?

Sue and Gale: While we look forward to a world in which male and female socialization is the same and people can be wholly themselves without encountering stereotypes and structural power imbalances, we’re not yet living in that world and the burden falls disproportionately on those who are not white males to figure out how best to be effective while evolving the model.  On top of that, as women we can be our own worst enemies – with a strong inner critic often holding us back – which makes it more difficult to address the remaining hurdles to our progress in the external world. Given that, we seek to support women to cultivate in themselves a strength, confidence, groundedness, and clarity of intention to weather the world as it is and be effective with who they are. From there, we wish to help them build on top of that internal foundation a set of practices and relational skills that enable them to be most effective in their roles.

Q: Will you be providing networking opportunities and mentorship as part of C-change as well?

Sue and Gale: Anytime you have an opportunity to connect with and meet new people is a networking opportunity. Online course participants will have the opportunity to network with others in the group.

Regarding mentorship, C-change provides individualized coaching or team coaching. It is important to recognize that mentoring and coaching are very different.

Mentoring or sponsoring usually involves a relationship between a more experienced leader who can share their experiences or create openings for their mentee to develop themselves further. Coaching is a creative process that includes goal setting, powerful questions, actions and accountability to help the coachee find her own answers and develop her own internal compass.

We encourage people to find a mentor or sponsor. Look for leaders you consider a role model in your field or in your organization. Ask them if they would be willing to spend time periodically talking with you to provide guidance and encouragement. For mentoring services, cSweetner is a great resource to check out. As their website says, they are dedicated to connecting female leaders on the path to – and already in – the healthcare C-Suite with male and female industry leaders and innovators who have the knowledge and experience to help them achieve their goals. C-change and cSweetner provide unique yet complementary services.

Q: Where can people learn more about C-change and sign up for the courses you’re offering?

Sue and Gale: Go to C-change on our StarBridge Advisors website to learn more about our services overall, the initial online courses “Equipping Emerging Leaders for Success” and “Harnessing Your Strengths”, or contact us. We look forward to helping you be the most effective leader you can be.

About the author

John Lynn

John Lynn

John Lynn is the Founder of HealthcareScene.com, a network of leading Healthcare IT resources. The flagship blog, Healthcare IT Today, contains over 13,000 articles with over half of the articles written by John. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 20 million times.

John manages Healthcare IT Central, the leading career Health IT job board. He also organizes the first of its kind conference and community focused on healthcare marketing, Healthcare and IT Marketing Conference, and a healthcare IT conference, EXPO.health, focused on practical healthcare IT innovation. John is an advisor to multiple healthcare IT companies. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can be found on Twitter: @techguy.