A Letter to My Granddaughter

Dear Lexi,

Reflecting on my 40+ years in the digital health business, I have been assessing the kind of work environment in which you will find yourself as you build your career. I have seen many positive signs of progress.

For many years I have passionately promoted the use of technology in healthcare as an enabler in bending the cost curve and more importantly to improve outcomes. Over the past few years, it has finally been demonstrated that the use of technology, along with clinical standards, can significantly improve the quality of care. As we move into the next decade, the untapped potential of virtual care is starting to build momentum. There is much to celebrate and expand upon in the future.

However, there is one area that has not moved forward – diversity, particularly gender diversity.

When I took my MBA, in the 70’s there were 10 men to every 1 woman in my class. That was the reality that I accepted, but my expectation was that surely this would change.

My first job was with a faith based hospital. Although I was given many opportunities as a manager fresh out of school, including the implementation of one of the first patient related computer systems, it became clear that I would never be the CEO (unless I became a nun). I then took a job as a consultant, and once again determined that the hierarchy of the organization was gender biased.

As a result, I started Healthtech Consultants as a way to provide me with the freedom to go “as far and as fast” as I wanted. It has not been easy.

I have worked hard and made tough sacrifices. However, running my own business has served me and our family well from all perspectives – professional satisfaction, financial benefit and quality of life.

Over the years, I have had many discussions with very smart, competent women in both the technology and healthcare industries about their frustration related to the “glass ceiling” restricting their advancement into senior positions.

Recently, in discussions with some students in different MBA programs, particularly programs with a focus on technology, I was horrified to discover that only 17-30% of students are women! This in not much of an improvement, compared to my MBA experience 40+ years ago.

Similarly in the ICT (Information Communication and Technology) sector the percentage of women has not increased over the years, particularly women in leadership roles. Inequality in remuneration has also continued.

The 2017 research document by the Information and Communication Technology Council (ICTC), exploring “The Digital Talent Dividend: Shifting Gears in a Changing Economy”, documented that Canadian employment of women in ICT has remained constant between 24-25% over the previous 10 years. Unfortunately, the gender gap has not been solely for the percent employment, but also for the average wages where women earned 91 cents for every dollar earned by men in similar ICT roles (Cutean, 2017). There is clear opportunity for Canadian organizations to improve on both wages and employment of Canadian women in health ICT.

WCT (Women in Communication and Technology) reports that in Canada on average women represent about 25% of the Canadian technology industry, but their ranks thin out considerably as they ascend the corporate ladder. Among the top 100 companies on the Branham 250 list (the definitive list of the largest tech firms in Canada) there are 5 female CEOs and one co-CEO. Women are also sparsely represented in the senior leadership teams of these companies and 26 of them have no women in the C-suite at all.

To me the business case for diversity has always been clear. My own experience has been validated by WCT’s findings, published in the 2018 “Where are the Women in the Canadian ICT Industry” report.

  • “Diversity of thought and experience in organizational work groups is recognized as a source of innovation.
  • Diverse companies perform better than homogenous ones.
  • Diversity in leadership (executives and directors) produces better corporate governance.”

As I built Healthtech Consultants over the past 36 years, I deliberately established and nurtured a culture that celebrates and values diversity. From my perspective, diversity has been and continues to be one of the key factors in our success. Diversity in the workplace fosters new and interesting ideas that challenge the status quo and promotes innovation.

As an entrepreneur, investor in innovative technology in healthcare, CEO of Healthtech, and consultant, I have tried to act as a role model and mentor. Keep in mind “you need to be able to see her, to be her”.

I have recently sold Healthtech Consultants and moved to an advisory role, within Healthtech and on a few Boards. I now need to “pass the torch” to your generation Lexi.

Whatever path you choose, and as a Canadian, virtually anything is open to you, I would encourage you to:

  • Be strong, humble, confident and stick to what you think is right.
  • Pursue something that you are passionate about.
  • Be adventurous and courageous in finding your own path to success (what-ever success will mean to you).
  • Challenge unfairness if you encounter it. Do not presume that is just the way it is.
  • Work hard so that you excel at what you choose to do.
  • Strive to find happiness, love and work /life balance.

Love and hugs,

Cutean, A. Ivus M. (2017). The Digital Talent Dividend: Shifting Gears in a Changing Economy. Information & Communications Technology Council (ICTC). Ottawa, Canada.

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