Male leaders take on the topic of getting more women into leadership positions

The HBA knows that to affect true change, you need to bring a variety of voices into the discussion. At the 2015 HBA Annual conference, Gail Evans, former EVP at CNN and best-selling author of Play Like a Man, Win Like a Woman, brought together a panel of male executives to get a male perspective on how women and get, and stay, in seats of influence in healthcare. Here are some highlights from the discussion.


Nick Colucci, CEO, Publicis

Brian Goff, 2014 Honorable Mentor, EVP president hematology, Baxalta
Rob Moverely, regional VP, operations – west region, Quest Diagnostics
Stuart Sowder 2015 Honorable Mentor, VP external medical communications, Pfizer

Panel 2015 AC

Male leaders on the ingredients for women’s leadership success…

One key ingredient is women need sponsorship…someone who can give air cover at the right times to create a safe haven so women can step forward and not have it be that it's just about them and it's not part of a team sport. The second thing is women really need to be able to see a pathway…and to see visible role models that they can emulate and align their own way of leading and stepping forward with them. And the third one is confidence. That every now and then everyone, not just women, but men and women, you have some self-doubt. And those are the moments when…it's almost like someone standing by the side of a pool—you need someone to just give a you a shove, push you in the pool, and know that you'll be successful.” —Brian Goff

“You have to be very careful to take credit for work that you've done. I was doing a little bit of research because I knew I was coming down here for this panel, and was really intrigued by a lot of what I was learning. And one thing that I read was that men attribute their accomplishments to their innate skills, to their talent, and women often attribute it to external factors. They'll say things like, ‘Well, I had a great team’ or ‘Well, you know, I worked really hard, or I got lucky.’ And that's a real issue. If that's the mindset then let’s acknowledge that. Men should be more thoughtful about acknowledging the team and acknowledging others, and women need to step up and to take ownership and accountability for their own achievements..." —Stuart Sowder

“…I think you can step up if your ego is directed to the team. You can still be the front person, look like you're standing in front, but not making it about you…No matter what your ability is, it's really about the language that you use and positioning. What is successful in making sure you have that balance between ‘I was there; I led; It's my ego that's driving this,’ and ‘we did it as a team and the team is driving this.’” —Nick Colucci


On the differences in how men and women get promoted…

“Here's my experience. I post a job; there's five characteristics necessary to do that job. When a man has two of them, he's pounding on my door telling me he's ready for the job…when a woman has four of the five characteristics, she doesn't knock on the door at all because she's focusing on the fifth one that she doesn't have. So my words to men are, ‘It's not always about who raises their hand and runs forward. Go out there and look for the talent.’ And to women I say, ‘Don't only focus on that fifth thing you don't have. No one goes into a job totally well prepared for it. No one, ever. Put yourself out there, take those risks, be brave, and show up.’” —Nick Colucci

“By definition learning curves are what make people great, tight learning curves. So if you wait until someone is quote ‘ready’ for the job, then you've already waited too long. And that's a two-way responsibility. That's a responsibility of the person who's a candidate for the job to take a step forward and stretch themselves. That's men and women. And then responsibility for the leader is to see the potential in people universally…” —Brian Goff

“…I was having dinner with a woman who's here at this conference. She told me that she'd been tapped on the shoulder by a senior executive at her company to apply for a job. She said to me, ‘My reaction was I'm not ready, I'm not qualified. I've got kids at home. I like my job. I don't meet the fourth qualification.’  And she ran through all the reasons in her mind why she shouldn't do it. And she said that through the HBA she's learned to somehow stop and not say any of those things but, instead, to just take it in and say, ‘I want to think about everything you said and I'll get back to you.’”—Stuart Sowder

“I've got two daughters and I think there's an industry variance as well. One of my daughters is a TV news director, and I asked her the question. She said, ‘Absolutely not. [Men, women] they have to make their bonus, they have to have a track record before they get that job. There is no promoting people on comeuppance.’ My youngest daughter's in the hospitality industry, and she basically said, ‘…That's exactly how it works. [Women] have to show they've got the ability, whereas men just get straight through.’ So industry specific.”—Rob Moverley

On the way women vs. men are heard in meetings…

“…What I see many times is a woman will make a comment, the male might interrupt, and then the conversation carries on. But part of that, too, is if the woman doesn't go another round and push forward, then she, herself, can get edited out. But that's, the two-way street is men have to recognize and really call each other out when that happens, and clear a space to allow...the dynamic in the room to change. Sometimes that just has to openly be acknowledged, that let's let more people speak at the table and listen. And then it becomes a little bit more of a habit..”—Brian Goff

“Part of this issue is the leadership of whoever is running that meeting. They have to be able to take control of that situation. If the person leading the meeting sees someone getting ridden over, they've got to give them the chance to be heard…” —Rob Moverley

“…If you're sitting the meeting and you're seeing it happen, step up and say he, she, whoever made a comment that needs to be acknowledged. People think it's hard to do. You don't want to put your neck on the line, you just want to get through the meeting and, hopefully, get to a good point. But if we really embrace the concept that diversity makes the outcome richer, you have to be willing to speak up. I found is, in those instances where you do stick your neck out and say, ‘Hey, she made that comment and it seems like we skipped over it.’ If you say that once or twice, people pay attention. They don't want to be bad behaviors at meetings. They want to do the right thing. And when you call them out, usually it works.”—Stuart Sowder

…I think it's cultural as much as anything else...It starts with everybody in that room understanding that you make a great soup by having a of richness of ingredients, and that usually means who's around that table, and it's everybody's obligation in that discussion to make sure that everybody feels heard. And that also means when you're not being heard, being assertive to make sure you are heard.”—Nick Colucci

On how gender parity impacts the bottom line, how middle management isn’t embracing gender parity as quickly as top leadership, and the assertion that—at the current rate of progress—it will take more than 100 years for the upper reaches of US corporations to achieve gender parity…

“…I don't believe it [taking 100 years to achieve gender parity] because what will happen is there will be economic physics that kick in way before middle management recognizes that diversity is, in fact, a critical element. Those companies won't survive. And it will kick in very quickly. Let’s start with students. College school students already are disproportionately more women than men. Then carry it forward to both MBAs and medical degrees, same thing. And then, eventually, that will be the doctors, and we already know power of the purse, the stats that we heard, that women are the decision makers in healthcare. So companies won't survive if they don’t have gender parity. Leaders recognize it because they're the ones accountable for the P&L, but it'll be known very quickly that if middle managers don't see it, then they will not be part of the career progression to be in those power seats.”—Brian Goff

“…We do an engagement survey inside my organization every year for the past five years. Teams that are diverse, usually led by women, have the highest engagement scores and coincidentally, have the best performance financially too. I'm adamant about this, my folks know, that it's an absolute truism in our organization. Diverse teams lead to a more engaged work population and better performance.”—Nick Colucci

“It's not going to change in even 100 years if people aren't incented to make that change. If the board or the senior management team don't force the layer below them to change, they will not change. Once it's diverse, it's self-sustaining because your interview panel is already diverse.”—Rob Moverley

…[There are] centuries of inequality that we're dealing with here. And I think part of the issue comes around the unconscious bias. So it has to come from the top and it has to be believed at the middle, has to be incentivized, and people have to not think that it sounds good that diversity does drive the bottom line, but they need to see it from their own experience…What I've learned through [embracing global perspectives] is that it's great, the end result is much richer, but it's tough. It takes work, it takes listening, it takes time…[As another example] I've learned just recently that a new perspective, collaborating with your competitors…now we started consortiums like Fact MI, where we literally have 25 companies in a room addressing how do we talk to the patient? This is hard…But these two examples illustrate that if you put in the hard work, really, you have a much more rich output. And that output can be leveraged for, in the healthcare sense, better patient care, which drives business.” Stuart Sowder[D2] 


On the issues that women face around the globe…

From what I've seen, the issues are very much the same across the globe, just to different degrees. If you take the far right, I did a year in Saudi Arabia; that's about as far right as you can go. England's probably somewhere more towards the middle, America is a little easier.”—Rob Moverley

“I think this issue exists worldwide for sure. And as Rob just said, you do see differences in different parts of the world. And I also believe this really needs to be a mission of the HBA, which we all have to be a part of, is how do we globalize what we're trying to do here in the US. And I would add perhaps Japan to that list where you here Prime Minister Abe talks about really transforming, getting more women into his cabinet. And we'll see whether or not he's really held to that ambition. But we see, and this is an ambition that we have within Baxalta, to make sure that globally we have the same mix of men and women in seats of position. And I really do think that there are pockets in the world where it's going to be a journey, it really will be. And each country, in their own way, needs inspiration, they need role models, and they need to be held accountable to make that kind of progress.”—Brian Goff 

The danger in any of these kinds of conversations is the paradox if the n of one. Let us note if we are speaking of only one person's experience. But my experience is that women think broader. They make connections that men may miss…In a more global workplace, where connections are found many times with great empathy and understanding, with a broader perspective, women seem to be more suited to be able to understand those connections. In some situations, women may need to narrow perspectives. The further you move toward the top, the more you need to focus and be decision oriented. I find that with men I'm try to have them broaden perspective, and with women I'm trying to say, ‘Okay, great, you saw all these connections. Now let's focus on what we can do to get this done.’ In a global world with many connections, you can come from either place; that’s why I want to not just try to make it about gender, but that's my experience, and I think women are perfectly suited to work in that environment.”—Nick Colucci

“Culturally, my experience is that women are up against the same issues across the globe. Companies can break through that cultural barrier in a lot of ways. Today Pfizer’s leadership team has gone up to being composed of 65% women. Companies can put diversity up on posters in the hallways, but they show they believe it through how they act, and when they give people, regardless of what country they live in, the opportunity to take a risk and to put themselves out there. An organization like the HBA does the same thing. It can give you skills, it can give you permission to take that risk that you may not take.”—Stuart Sowder

“Can we just add—since HBA is a lot about personal development—that part of the question is about what can you do personally, as you're listening and we're discussing this. In the future, to be in a key power seat, and let's say the head of a pharma company, for example, you'll need to find a way to get global experience in some capacity. Because the discussions that we're talking about, that global international experience gives you a whole different lens about many other layers of diversity. So that could be a mini homework assignment that everybody puts in your career list, and there are many different ways to do it. You can live in an international country, you can get on a global project, you can be on a global team, but that's on the must have list to really see the world differently.”—Brian Goff 

A call to action

…We're sitting in an HBA conference and maybe it'll take a while for other industries and so forth to keep up because they don't have HBA. But there's never been a time more than right now, especially in the US in an election year, when we're, unfortunately, getting vilified as an industry based on some pricing dynamics and so on. Let's get it right in healthcare to transform women getting into lead seats and showcase then to the rest of the industry, this is the way it's done.  We need that now more than ever.” —Brian Goff