Despite a continued pay-gap in the health care IT field, many female leaders believe a shift is coming.

Are female leadership roles in health IT on the rise?

Data from a 2015 HIMSS Compensation Survey found that twice as many men hold management positions in the field of healthcare information technology, reported Health Data Management. Those numbers are slowly shifting, however, according to a few female leaders.

A slow shift
Tina Espito, vice president of health information services for Advocate Health Care and Liz Johnson, chief information officer at Tenet Healthcare for acute care hospitals and applied clinical informatics have acknowledged a shift in the industry, as more and more organizations are promoting women leadership roles, according to Health Data Management. And though they've seen an influx in the number of females in top IT positions among healthcare organizations, both Espito and Johnson think the sector can do more to encourage female leaders in these roles.

The challenge, according to some, is that a male-dominant culture still exists in many companies and healthcare organizations today. Fortune magazine reported that although women made up an astounding 78 percent of healthcare employees across the nation in 2015, only 34 percent of females hold executive positions among the top 100 hospitals. Even more disconcerting, women only hold 27 percent of seats on these boards. Ironically, despite holding not even close to half of top positions in the field, females are responsible for making up to 80 percent of the healthcare decisions for their families according to the U.S. Department of Labor, reported Fortune.

Disparity in salary
In late 2015, the HIMSS published salary survey information that painted a dim picture for females in the healthcare IT industry. The report found that not only are women under-represented in healthcare IT executive and senior management roles, but they also consistently earn less than their male co-workers in the same roles. The annual average salary for men in these roles was $126,000, compared to the median $101,000 earned by women in the same positions.

In terms of access to upper management roles, HIMSS reported that males made up 19 percent of senior management roles, compared to females accounting for just 10 percent. Executive management roles were held by 11.8 percent of men, and just 3.6 percent of women.

According to Health Data Management, some fear that these pay-gaps will cause women to turn toward other industries where the compensation is more equal. It also does not help that first-year compensation for women in management roles is 63 percent that of men's, HIMSS reported. Furthermore, it takes these females 15 years to in that same role to achieve equal pay with men, according to the organization.

Moving forward
Despite the discrepancies though, many females in the field are remaining hopeful that a more significant shift is in the near future. However, it all starts from a young age and the nation as a whole must become better at educating young girls about the opportunities available in information technology, Espito told Health Data Management. Encouraging young females to pursue a career in the healthcare IT field starts by implementing programs as early as elementary school. Moreover, removing gender stereotypes by telling girls that it's not just OK, but wonderful to be interested in the fields of science and math is just as important, if not more.

"We just don't have enough females in STEM (science, technology, engineering and management) roles," said Espito. "We really need to think about going back to the sources and ensuring that there are enough opportunities for young girls in STEM. It won't happen overnight, but we'll eventually see a change."