Request for 'booth girl' perpetuates view of HIT as a man's world

The face of health IT is changing. What used to be an industry where men held most of the executive positions, women are breaking through that glass ceiling and taking seats at the leadership table.

Come March, tens of thousands of women will be in Las Vegas to attend HIMSS 2016.

However, despite the progress women have made in the industry, there's still an undercurrent of sexism.

A vendor attending the conference recently posted an ad on Craigslist looking for a "booth girl."

The ad asks for a "booth girl" for three days of the conference, notes that she must be dressed business casual and asks for a picture to be attached to the application.

In addition, this ad specifically asks for a "girl," even though men also do this kind of workHIStalk writer and #HITchicks founder Jennifer Dennard brought the ad to light by tweeting it out with the comment "Just Say No to Booth Babes at #HIMSS16!! (Why 'Girl?' Why not 'Person' or at least 'Woman?' #healthITchicks")

Requesting a pretty "girl" to staff your booth to draw in conference attendees is shortsighted.

Girl may just be a word to some, but words have incredible power. By choosing to use the term "girl," this vendor not only is insulting the many women who will be attending HIMSS, but also the professionals who help staff event booths for a living.

And while this is just one vendor's ad, the practice of calling professional women in these jobs "booth babes" for conferences is nothing new. It mirrors the healthcare industry at large, which has long been a man's world. Even with all the progress women have made, barriers still persist.

A recent Rock Health report found that though in 2015 digital health saw a rise in female CEOs, women are still underrepresented in the healthcare field.

The event will be attended by more women than ever this year. They'll include hospital executives, digital health startup founders and members of government. The conference also will feature a talk on the role of women in health IT, "Shattering the Glass Ceiling: Lessons Learned for Aspiring Female Executives."

Vendors attending the event should keep this in mind, and realize the growing role women have in health IT. All women deserve respect, and the use of "girl" when referring to any person over the age of 13 is anything but respectful.  

Have you experienced unfair treatment as a women in the world of health IT, or seen it happen to someone else? Or has there been improvement year over year? Let us know in the comments or on Twitter. - Katie (@KMDvorak87 and @FierceHealthIT)

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