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HIMSS Women in Health IT

Billy Jean King is one of the world’s best and best-known athletes. Celebrated as a tennis legend, she won 39 Grand Slam titles in singles, doubles and mixed doubles, including a record 20 at Wimbledon. She was ranked Number 1 in the world five times.

Billy Jean is also renowned for her defeat of Bobby Riggs in the Battle of the Sexes in 1973. Aired live on television from the Houston Astrodome before 30,000 enthusiastic fans and 90 million more viewers at home, the tennis match extravaganza culminated months of over-the-top hype. In the course of this win, Billy Jean inspired women and educated men as she pursued her life-long quest for gender equality.

King as Inspiration for Women in Health IT

For women mentors and mentees in health IT, there is a lifetime of lessons to be learned from Billy Jean in her book, Pressure is a Privilege. In it, she recounts the significance of her match with Riggs and describes the personal and professional risks she took throughout her career, advocating for equal rights and opportunities in sports, education and business. She offers concrete advice, chapter by chapter, for women at all stages of our lives. She exemplifies leadership on every page.

For me as a hospital executive and chief information officer, Billy Jean’s encouragement to recognize your life’s work, whenever and wherever you find it,rings especially true. “Every person’s life contains an endless number of possible turning points – usually a moment where an opportunity is presented to you or what someone says or does affects a choice you have to make,” she said. Choose always to take the next step and see where it leads you.

King’s Words as Advice

Here’s how I translate her words into advice for women in health IT.

Know yourself.
Think honestly about, and understand your strengths and weaknesses. Are you a visionary with a long view? Do you pay attention to details but sometimes get lost in them? Are you impatient with yourself or others? Do you complete tasks on time or procrastinate? Do you react differently under certain conditions or with certain people?

Prepare to take advantage of every opportunity presented to you.
Trust yourself. Develop confidence in your abilities. Cultivate a methodical mind, an organized way of sorting through issues. Consider all options, with the pros and cons of each, although some may seem crazy or impossible. How do your emotions color your thoughts and actions? How do you support others as they face difficult situations?

Practice self-awareness.
Be mindful of tension in your body or the satisfaction you feel from a job well done. Consider the ways in which you can improve communication with others and the joy of really sharing ideas or goals with colleagues, friends or family. Transfer those insights to as many experiences as possible and observe your evolution.

Practice situational awareness.
Pay attention to details. Be open and listen to others. Notice body language and interpersonal dynamics in groups, whether you are attending a dinner party or chairing a meeting. You can learn a great deal by asking questions and listening attentively to the answers, instead of doing all the talking.

Be resourceful.
There are many ways to accomplish your goals. If your first approach is ineffective, try another. Billy Jean said, sometimes “trying softer, not harder” can work better. Be determined. Persist.

Finally, remember to take time to nurture yourself and other women, as you overcome obstacles and live your dream.

The views and opinions expressed in this blog or by commenters are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of HIMSS or its affiliates.

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