Women in Healthcare: Building Inclusive Workplaces for All to Thrive

March 4, 2022

On March 2, 2022, Zotec Partners hosted a Zotec Shares Webinar on women in healthcare.

In healthcare, most providers and administrators at all levels are women—serving as a guiding light for other industries. In honor of Women’s History Month, we hosted a Zotec Shares Webinar to spotlight women’s essential perspectives in healthcare.

During this Zotec Shares webinar, we heard from three inspiring leaders who’ve had a significant impact on guiding people and culture, delivery improvement, and business performance across healthcare organizations:

  • Diane Kaiser, D.O., FACEP, President of Farmington Emergency Medicine Associates
  • Maria Rodriguez M.D., MBA, President of Radiology Services, Envision Physician Services
  • Kelly Searle, Chief Revenue Officer of Sound Physicians

Key Takeaways:

  • The working environment has shifted significantly, and leaders must adapt to a new set of skills engage with team members virtually.
  • To build successful careers, women should surround themselves with a good support system and be realistic about expectations.
  • Organizational communications and mentorship can create transparency into opportunities available for those aspiring to advance careers.
  • Leading by example and being approachable and honest are some of the best way managers can improve the potential of women employees.

Read below for practical advice and proven best practices shared during our discussion.

In your book, The Naked Executive, you share advice to inspire women to become leaders. What has changed for women in the workplace since you published the book?

Kelly: One thing that has changed for sure is that over 60% of females are working remote or hybrid remote. That is a whole different level of exposure to all other areas of our lives. That vulnerability has also brought a whole new set of opportunities and challenges. In these past two years, there are a lot of buzzwords that have come out, like mental resiliency and self-care, and I think that many people are stepping back and looking at these concepts and reflecting on their own lives. People wonder if these are just buzzwords or if they are truly going to be modeled in their organization to have a safe space to speak up. People recognize that self-care must take priority, and mental health is huge. As leaders, we are dealing with many different situations. Virtual engagement is an entirely new set of skills to adapt.

How have you taken from your own experiences to build an ecosystem that helps women in your organization build successful careers?

Diane: It’s still not easy to be a woman in the world of medicine. It is predominantly male, so you must start with a plan and surround yourself with a good support team. Once that’s in place, you must be realistic about what you can and can’t do. You have to be present, participate, and lead by example. Those are the key skills for women to progress in any field, but specifically in medicine.

What strategies are you taking to create an environment that fosters growth and development for women leaders?

Maria: I work for a very large organization with four major subdivisions. Radiology alone, my service line, has over 800 providers. We pride ourselves on having a lot of opportunities. It first starts with support from the C suite, and our CEO has made it his mission to have a diverse workforce and support everything below that. For example, I have a completely female team, unheard of in radiology outside of academics. In addition, communication across the enterprise creates transparency. Third is creating opportunities at the service line level. Everyone in the organization knows that we have a lot of female leaders, but beyond acknowledging and aspiring to those opportunities, we provide mentorship to get them there.

Fear of failure is real, and it can be paralyzing to many. How do we overcome this fear?

Kelly: I think there is no way to overcome fear. It is an emotion that’s energy in the tank. As leaders, that energy is what we’re always looking for to evoke action in other people. As women, we sometimes fail to step back and clearly define success. If we don’t define it, then we expect perfection. We all know that that’s not going to happen. So, this fear of failure is a fear of perfection that sets us up always to fail. I come out of the gate by addressing worst-case scenarios. If you look at the facts, it’s super hard to fail. From there, we build up. Everyone should always keep in their pocket the knowledge that you can not fail at being you. That is the greatest asset that anyone brings to the table from an organizational standpoint and a diversity standpoint. If we create a safe environment, then you’re getting people to bring their best selves and removing that fear of failure.

What are the benefits of having a diverse and inclusive culture?

Maria: There are so many things that have been proven in studies. We can improve creativity, problem-solving, productivity, decision-making and reduce turnover. It’s much better for the organization and reputation of the business because potential seekers are more and more diverse. For me, the most important thing as a physician organization is that it’s also a moral responsibility to the patient. The customer is diverse, and the only way to do good patient care is to understand our patients, and we need to be diverse to do that and see their perspective. The benefits are endless.

What’s your top tip to improve the leadership potential of women within your organization?

Diane: My tip is to lead by example. In my line of work, not only am I a clinical physician working side by side with my colleagues, but I also run the business and do the schedule. When I do the schedule, that’s a huge portion of an emergency medicine physician’s life because the E.R. never closes. So, I have just as hectic of a schedule as my partners do, and I don’t give myself any passes; by doing that, you can gain the respect of your partners and everybody that works for you. Once you start giving yourself extra perks, that’s when animosity begins. You have to have a nice and even playing field, play by the rules, and lead by example. I often carry the biggest patient load, providing the best care that we can, and then everybody follows suit. So, my tip is to lead by example, and life becomes so much easier for you.

Kelly: For me, the first thing is to know yourself, your core values, strengths, and growth opportunities. Then, learn how to be a master communicator. You never have to change your opinion, but you will have to communicate with so many diverse stakeholders that the ability to flex your communication style is invaluable. Diane is 100% correct that you also must model who you are and be consistent to gain followership. Our role as leaders is to evoke actions in other people that align with a common goal. For us to be the best, most powerful, and influential leaders, connecting with that common goal is truly what makes us great.

Maria: For me, it’s lead by example. That has been the biggest part of my success. Also, be humble and approachable, no matter who it is. Be available to anyone and be ready to give advice and explain whatever is necessary. Humility is also important in a leader because you don’t realize the power you have over people and how they see you at the end of the day.

What advice do you have for male team members to support women leaders?

Maria: The most important thing is to break down bias and stereotypes. Look at a candidate or colleague for what they can contribute professionally, not their gender or how they look. That’s because the world is ever-changing and traditional roles are being broken down every day. We also need to be flexible. The workforce requires different things of us, so we must give people the opportunity to explore and take care of their other pursuits, and in exchange, they will give their best. In the past, roles and expectations were very traditional, and now more than ever, we need to break down those barriers.

Kelly: I think out of the gate, learn more about unconscious bias. We all bring experience and experience to the table, and high achievers are trying to make quick decisions through the lens of experience. Unconscious bias can then occur by seeing things that look the same as our past and expecting success. When people look at candidates for new roles, they have an unconscious bias about what has been previously successful. When there is a rush to get positions filled, it can miss the best, most diverse, innovative, and creative solutions. So, understanding and learning about those unconscious biases allows us to step back and pause when looking at problem-solving.

How can people—all of us, put vulnerability into action?

Kelly: The most important thing about being vulnerable has a safe space to practice. We aren’t going to be perfect out of the gate, so we need those safe spaces to grow and change. Female mentors are also important for us to lean into. Also, following up with an open door and open-email policy. Most importantly, we have to be honest. Don’t tell people what they want to hear if you want to build an authentic, vulnerable, connected relationship with others. Figure out how to tell the truth with compassion so that people hear your intent and not just your words. Otherwise, you will continue to receive pretty lies instead of the ugly truth. And, as leaders, we must rely on people to tell us the truth. And, whether people will tell the truth depends on the relationship you have with them.

To hear more in-depth insight from the panel, watch a recording of the live webinar by clicking watch now.

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