When listing the traits of a successful leader, most people might avoid words like “impatient,” but to Sue Schade, being inpatient means refusing to accept the status quote, and instead aiming higher. “I like to see change; I like to see results,” says Schade, who recently spoke with healthsystemCIO.com about the winding road that took her to the University of Michigan, the steep learning curve all new leaders face, her crusade to get more women in technology roles, and what she believes are the keys to change management. Schade also discusses the balance CIOs must strike between being strategic and operational, her decision to tear down the walls and start her own blog, and what makes the CIO role both challenging and fun.
- Addressing the future IT workforce
- Take your kids to work day — “We’ve got a model to replicate.”
- Creating a supportive culture
- Her early days as a working mom — “Things have changed a lot.”
- ‘Kick your feet back’ strategy sessions
- Need for “diversity of views”
LISTEN NOW USING THE PLAYER BELOW OR CLICK HERE TO SUBSCRIBE TO OUR iTUNES PODCAST FEED
I have been aware my whole career that technology is a male-dominated field. And as I have risen in the ranks as a CIO in healthcare IT, I’m very aware of what those numbers look like between male and female IT leaders.
I got a lot of great response. A lot of women afterwards told me their stories personally, and a lot of men told me stories of their daughters and what they were facing in school and some of the career choices that they were making, so it resonated with people.
It’s having mentoring programs, as well as making sure that your culture is supportive and that you’re addressing work-life balance issues. I think that’s important for everybody.
As a manager on that team, I would’ve liked to have been in that conversation. Why did that conversation happen then as opposed to earlier in the day, in a more formal way, when I was there?
Gamble: Some of your blog pieces have focused on getting more women involved in technology. I know that that’s something that’s a passion of yours, and I’d like to get your thoughts on that.
Schade: Sure. In terms of getting more women involved in technology, I have been aware my whole career that technology is a male-dominated field. And as I have risen in the ranks as a CIO in healthcare IT, I’m very aware of what those numbers look like between male and female IT leaders. I first started focusing a little bit more on this when I was asked to do a talk at a conference in December. It was a one of those invitation-only conferences with about 100 people, and I was given the opportunity to do the opening keynote over dinner. They told me I could talk about anything I wanted to as long as it was inspirational and motivating, so I had a lot of latitude. What I decided to do was to talk about the future workforce and as I started doing some research and preparation to talk about the future workforce, I started drilling in on the challenge of getting more women into technology.
So that was the first point at which I really went deeper on that, and as I got up to speak, it was typical, probably 80 percent of the people in the room were men. I thought, ‘here we go, let’s see how this goes.’ I got a lot of great response. A lot of women afterwards told me their stories personally, and a lot of men talked to me afterwards and told me stories of their daughters and what they were facing in school and some of the career choices that they were making, so it resonated with people.
And then I had the opportunity to talk at a community college in the area as a keynote speaker as part of their series on nontraditional careers. This was women in IT, and when they asked me to do it, they said, ‘just to give you an idea in terms of this series, we’ve also had men in nursing as a focus.’ It works both ways in terms of men and women going into what would be considered nontraditional careers, so that was an opportunity to talk to an audience that was primarily high school and college-age, and encouraging them to go into the field.
What’s interesting is, I tried to make it extremely positive, but the Q&A quickly went to some of the negatives in talking about a male culture and how do you deal with a male culture for a developer. There are a lot of articles about this right now. I tried to be honest with them about some of those challenges and how to deal with it, and I’ve since had the opportunity to do another talk to a group, as well as you noted, I’ve written some things on it.
So I’m happy to speak out about that. I’m in a position I think where I can speak out about that and I can be a role model in talking with young women and encouraging them to go into the field. It’s not just technology; it’s STEM fields across the board.
Gamble: Right. And is there anything that you think CIOs and other leaders can do, whether it’s things like mentoring or just encouraging women and men, but women to really go after roles, to have high goals and to not get caught into thinking they can’t do certain things?
Schade: Yes. Let me divide it into two. I think it’s critical for CIOs or others in the field to be willing to support organizations for young kids who are getting into technology, programs like Girls Who Code and Mouse.org, which I commented on in one of the blogs — supporting any of those organizations. It’s being willing to write and speak, go talk to schools, and make sure you’re hosting Take Your Sons and Daughters to Work Day. We had a really successful one here, I’m really pleased about it. Everybody felt good about it, and we’ve got a model now to replicate in future years. It’s supporting intern programs — those are all kind of leading up to and are feeders to full-time employment.
Once you are talking about full-time employment, it’s having mentoring programs, as well as making sure that your culture is supportive and that you’re addressing work-life balance issues. I think that’s important for everybody. At certain times, it can be more important for women who are taking leave to have a family and might come back for a while part-time before they can really get in full-time. It’s just being open and being able to look at what’s your workplace environment and are you supportive of all your employees.
Gamble: Right. That’s something that’s starting to gain a little more traction now, which is really great to see just as far as offering, even if it’s temporary, a little bit more flexibility to be able to keep people in their positions when they’re going through the early stages of parenthood.
Schade: Right. I hope people don’t have stories like I had when I had young children and I was in management. I was the only woman on a management team for probably a good five years, and working with guys that had wives who were mostly stay-at-home moms and I think I worked with guys who didn’t really get it and didn’t understand what some of my challenges were. I could tell you some of those stories — I won’t go into that now, but I know things have changed a lot, and it’s a much more supportive work environment for young parents, male and female.
Gamble: Right. When we had our roundtable (Women in IT Leadership) where you talked about trying to avoid things like having happy hour, team bonding type things that exclude new parents, and it seems like there is more attention to this now and that’s really a positive thing.
Schade: Yes, absolutely. One of the challenges that I had was the ‘kick your feet back, have a strategy’ conversations usually happened in the boss’ office after 5 or 5:30. And I had to leave and get my kids at daycare a good 45 minutes away, before daycare closed. As a manager on that team, I would’ve liked to have been in that conversation. Why did that conversation happen then as opposed to earlier in the day, in a more formal way, when I was there?
Gamble: Yeah, absolutely. Besides many other factors, what people could be missing out on is the fact that working parents are often extremely adept at multitasking and will work really hard and if you’re leaving them out, then you’re missing out as well.
Schade: Right. That’s where you get the diversity of views. And if you’re missing that, decisions and directions may not be as well thought-through.
Gamble: Right. Well, I think that that’s a good way to wrap things up. I honestly could talk to you for a long time, but I really appreciate the time you’ve given us, and I would certainly like to check in with you again.
Schade: Absolutely. I enjoyed this and hopefully it will be useful to you and to others. I’m happy to do it.
Gamble: Thank you so much and yes, I would definitely would like to see you again at one of these events.
Schade: Great. Thank you, Kate.