Christiane Zhao as the first guest speaker of the Health Women’s Network at the Ministry of Health, New Zealand
“Diversity is our constraint and unity is our power. If they don’t see there is a gap in the industry, we will break the silence and raise the hands.”
On 18th July 2019, Christiane Zhao had been invited as the first guest speaker of the Health Women’s Network at the Ministry of Health. She started with her personal journey of reducing inequality through establishing the Healthcare Technology Association NZ. She then shared her experience of hosting the first ever Women in Health IT Conference in New Zealand.
The Health Women’s Network is a place mainly for the female professionals at the Ministry of Health. It facilitates the sharing of information and experiences, and encourages and supports women’s participation in the health-related workforce. The invitation to provide the talk for both the Auckland and Wellington offices marks a fundamental turning point for both Christiane and the community she represented. It indicates that the public and the industry are drawing greater attention to the inequality gap between tertiary students and senior professionals, as well as the gap between male and female workers. Christiane believes the status quo within the industries should be carefully addressed, and the ability of accessing information or meetings should be based not on a young professional’s socioeconomic status but rather their skills and willingness to learn.
“When we were selecting the conference topic in February, we were especially surprised by the fact that we do not have any sort of conference or meeting specifically for the women in the Health-Tech industry,” Christiane said. “After we selected the topic, I visited several offices and spoke with a lot of people and, surprisingly, the complexity of this topic makes our work even more meaningful than ever.”
An issue arising from this topic is that some people assume it is creates a battleground for male and female professionals. The team is trying to avoid focusing too much on statistics and addressing gender equality, but rather to focus on the realistic and personal barriers for female professionals to release their potential and overcome challenges. Throughout the entire preparation process, Christiane also realised there is very little research or survey data to represent the gender inequalities in both the healthcare and technology industries in New Zealand. In addition, it is significantly difficult to invite either male speakers or male attendees to be involved in the conference. “Some told me there is no gender inequality in the industry as approximately 60-70% of healthcare workers are female.” Christiane states, “However, we do not have enough female-representation at the management level in both industries. We also face greater barriers due to the fact that female CEOs are doubted in the status quo.”
Christiane herself generated $4000 sponsorships and receives approximately $3000 from ticket sales. Half of the sponsorships are generated from Mercy Radiology and Vensa Health. She then collaborated with five supporters, made up of non-profit organisations, non-profit societies and companies. A team of 10 part-time students were formed in April to support the WiHIT Interview Series and the conference itself happened on 27th May. During the meeting, the majority of the attendees were inspired and surprised by Christiane’s initiatives and achievements.
During the talk, Christiane provided some solid data generated from the Women in Health IT Conference. The conference had more than 74 attendees and 14 guest speakers involved throughout the entire day. There was wide representation of staff from DHBs and companies like Orion Health and Deloitte. Approximately 18% of the attendees were managers, 13% attendees were CEOs/Directors. Its official website received more than 6043 visits within three months, which is an impressive record for New Zealand. “We received a lot of positive feedback from the surveys as well as other social platforms such as LinkedIn and Facebook.” Keeping a whole-day conference ticket as low as $43 for students and $87 for others is another step taken to fight against inequalities in the industry. Tertiary and Master students comprised 20% of the attendees.