Beyond the Glass Ceiling: Success Strategies for Women in Healthcare | HBA

Beyond the Glass Ceiling: Success Strategies for Women in Healthcare

HBA Philadelphia 25 October 2018 Event

HBA Philadelphia hosted an event on 25 October hailed by many as one of the best in recent memory, entitled “Beyond the Glass Ceiling: Success Strategies for Women in Healthcare.” The event was sponsored by and held at Fox Chase Cancer Center in Philadelphia and featured an impressive panel of leaders from across the healthcare spectrum who openly shared their lessons, both personal and professional, learned throughout their impressive careers.


Following a lively cocktail hour where guests gathered to enjoy refreshments and networking, attendees joined in Fox Chase’s auditorium where HBA Mid-Atlantic Region deputy chair, Jackie Franke welcomed guests and kicked off the evening’s program. Franke shared the news of Fox Chase’s new sponsorship of the HBA Mid-Atlantic region, then introduced HBA Philadelphia president, Amy Turnquist who moderated the session.  

The panel discussion followed and presented an insightful and engaging dialogue including many personal experiences shared by the panelists. These included Judith Bachman, chief operating officer, Fox Chase Cancer Center; Sharon Callahan, CEO, TBWA/Worldhealth; Joy Taylor, principal, growth solutions leader, Grant Thornton; Michele Sample, vice president, development operations, Incyte and Stephanie  Andrzejewski, head of corporate affairs, respiratory, AstraZeneca.

The main topics discussed were:

Why are coaches, mentors and sponsors so important to professional women’s development and how can we best find and leverage these relationships personally and professionally?

Every panelist shared a personal story from her own experience about how a “formal or informal” coach or sponsor has been instrumental in helping them define, redefine or set a whole new career path over the course of her career. From helping to advocate for them, represent their “brand” to others, or even support them through a life or career transition -- all panelists agreed that a strong sponsor recognizes both one’s current and observable strengths as well as our capability for growth and future potential. One panelist, Judy, summed up the difference between a coach, mentor and sponsor (and why it is so critical to find sponsors in your career: “When you coach somebody, you talk to them. When you mentor somebody, you talk with them. When you sponsor somebody, you talk about them.” The panelists recommended a general strategy of networking with a lot of people in your company and being visible, so that when your sponsor mentions your name in “the room” where talent is being discussed, others recognize it and are receptive to their recommendations about you. When it comes to finding a mentor (who may become a sponsor), it is important to be brave and ask, but know that it may take some iterations to find the right match.   

What role can networking play in helping to advance one’s professional growth?

“Never stop networking” was a key theme shared by all panelists. From networking outside one’s usual circle of peers, to reaching beyond “our tribes” and “exercising our ask muscle” – all five panelists emphasized the importance of finding and building personal connections with peers and leaders inside and outside one’s organization, in both professional and personal capacities. Sometimes it may involve activity outside of your comfort zone, like early breakfasts or dinners downtown, but the work of networking pays rich benefits early in our careers as well as decades later. One panelist, Joy, shared that she makes a list every Monday of five people to reach out to that she hasn’t talked to in a while. She comes up with a reason to send them a note throughout the week, even if it’s just to say hello.  
Transitions – to new roles and new organizations – are a common part of all of our careers. When we proactively pursue them or they’re defined for us due to circumstances out of our control – how can we best approach and manage them?

Panelists unilaterally agreed that transitions can be “gifts”. That while they do often require risk taking and stepping out of our comfort zones, accepting a new role or even moving to a new company entirely can bring the opportunity to self-reflect on our goals and aspirations and provide the impetus for expanding our skill sets and redefining a next chapter in our professional lives. Key questions we can ask ourselves are, “where am I essential?” and “what challenges can I uniquely help to solve?” The panelists all agreed that not all transitions go well, but you can make them smoother by activating your network to help you fill in your gaps in knowledge or experience. Don’t be afraid to take on roles you don’t know how to do. More often than not, if someone who knows you believes you can do it, you probably can.

As we progress in our careers, many of us aim to move into roles of increasing responsibility and eventually into leadership positions. What are the some of the keys to success we can follow? 

A common theme shared by panelists around the topic of professional growth was to “allow yourself to be vulnerable” and “be yourself” because that is where your success will come from. It’s okay to not know everything. Rely on your “circle of trust” (peers and mentors) for advice. Call experts in domains outside of your own. Don't be afraid to take risks. Take leadership roles in volunteer organizations to gain skills leading others. And be confident asking for the increased responsibility you believe you’re ready for. “The answer is always no if you don’t ask.”

The session was wrapped up by Amy Turnquist, who remarked that the panel probably could have gone on for hours with such inspiring women with so many great stories to tell and wisdom to impart.

Special thanks to the volunteers that helped make this event a success: Laurie Donoris, Lori BainBridge, Susan Spitz, Sudeepti Southekal, Jen O’Neill and Karen Carr.