Women, people of color experiencing stubborn pay gap in health IT field

Rebecca Vesely

About Rebecca Vesely

Rebecca Vesely is AHCJ's topic leader on health information technology and a freelance writer. She has written about health, science and medicine for AFP, the Bay Area News Group, Modern Healthcare, Wired, Scientific American online and many other news outlets.

Photo: Dan Simpson via Flickr

Women and people of color are experiencing stubborn pay gaps in one of the more lucrative and in-demand fields of health care – health IT.

While the movement towards equal pay for equal work continues to grow, there is little data on compensation disparities in health IT, in part because the field is so new.

Officials from HIMSS – the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society – recently held a webinar to delve into the issue. The webinar highlighted relevant findings in the 2018 HIMSS U.S. Compensation Survey, which was released this spring. Among the findings:

  • The average annual salary of a health IT professional is around $110,000.
  • Women in health IT earn on average 18 percent less than white men, and non-whites are paid on average 12 percent less than whites.
  • Women make on average $100,447 annually, compared to $123,244 annual salary for men in health IT.
  • Non-white health IT professionals make on average $99,609 annually.
  • The pay disparity gap widens as health IT professionals get older.
  • Women of color face a “double jeopardy” of both gender and racial pay gaps, making on average $92,340 annually.
  • Men over age 55 can make about $150,000 annually in health IT, while women of the same age make less than $120,000 per year.
  • Overall, women are slightly more satisfied with their compensation than men.
  • Vendor organizations are typically higher paying than traditional health care employers such as hospitals – with smaller but still existing gender and racial disparities.

“Health IT is an attractive field because of the pay,” said Lorren Pettit, vice president of research at HIMSS. “But no matter how we slice the data there is a pay gap.”

Denise Hines, CEO of eHealth Services Group in Atlanta and a woman of color, said during the Webinar that she has experienced every pay disparity described in the survey findings.

“What I learned later is that, unfortunately, the processes in institutions, like human resources, fails to ensure the process is fair,“ Hines said.

Pettit described a “lack of traction” for women and people of color to catch up in pay because they typically start at a lower salary than white male colleagues.

The HIMSS compensation survey is conducted every two years and 2018 was the first year the survey included compensation data by race (white and non-white).

Hines said that raising awareness through further compensation research and networking is important to create change in the field. She added that women and people of color should use this data when negotiating salaries.

“We also need to move into leadership roles so we can champion these positions,” Hines said.

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