Women in healthcare panel focuses on leadership, networking, and empowering women

by Jas Sarna, School of Arts and Sciences and SAS Honors Program Scholar, Class of 2024

To help students along the path to careers in public health and healthcare administration, on October 20 the Bloustein School partnered with the Northern NJ Healthcare Businesswomen’s Association (HBA) chapter and Seton Hall University for an evening focused on women leaders in healthcare.

The event began with commentary from Meera Patturajan, Anita Franzione, and Alison Handler on how networking and team collaboration brought the event to fruition and included so many groups of people. Ms. Handler then spoke on her experience with the Healthcare Businesswomen’s Association and the resources it offers students. Specifically, she said, “And that, for me has always been a reason why I love participating in these programs because it helps my development regardless of where I am within my career.”

She emphasized how the HBA offers members ways to grow and cultivate skills that will always be useful, in addition to allowing broad networking opportunities, and efforts to promote gender parity in healthcare.

The moderated panel began with introductions from the three featured speakers: Kayla Spence, Associate Director Clinical Operations, NYC Health + Hospitals, Paula Gutierrez, Director of Diversity & Inclusion, RWJBarnabas Health, and Stacey Lallier, Director of Strategy & Governance, BioResearch Quality & Compliance, Janssen Research & Development.

The first topic the panel addressed was networking, and it quickly became apparent how networking had helped all three panelists secure their job positions. Ms. Lallier talked about how every interaction creates an impact and can help you build your network. She also mentioned the importance of not only using your network connections but making sure you use your resources to help others too. She said, “So I think it’s important as you build your network, as you build your mentoring base, that you look at who can help you along the way and who can you also help support as well.”

Ms. Spence and Ms.Gutierrez built upon the idea with their own anecdotes. They mentioned how anyone can be a part of your network and the importance of maintaining good relationships with colleagues.

The conversation moved to discuss challenges that women face in healthcare, started by Ms. Spence’s note that, “We often, as women, dismiss ourselves before someone else does, so we need to have that self-confidence that we deserve a seat at the table.” The other speakers added that it is crucial that women recognize their experiences as aspects of their uniqueness as job candidates and work to support and elevate other women in the field. They stressed the importance of confidence, “owning your power,” and getting into that mindset. Ms. Handler suggested “faking it until it becomes real” and utilizing a power stance for self-empowerment and Ms. Gutierrez’s “Own Your Power” sticky-note reminder became something that everyone vowed to adopt into their lives.

After briefly touching on the progress but need for more diversity within healthcare, the panelists spoke on emotional intelligence. All three panelists talked about how women are held to a different standard than men, and how frustrating those expectations can be. To cope, Ms. Lallier expressed the importance of not letting it affect you and remaining focused. She referenced a quote by the late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg who said, “Sometimes people say unkind or thoughtless things, and when they do, it is best to be a little hard of hearing — to tune out and not snap back in anger or impatience.”

Ms. Spence added that humanizing herself to the people she works with has proved valuable for her ability to have strong work relationships and allies that stand up for her. She said that it can be as easy as working to remember the names of everyone you work with.

Before moving into breakout rooms, the group talked about how important support systems are in maintaining a healthy work-life balance. Making sure that there are people in your life that can help you make and sustain decisions is crucial for success and happiness. That support system should also include people who help push you towards greater opportunities when possible.

After breakout rooms, a participating student, Margaret Curran, spoke about the lessons she was going to be taking with her from the program. She talked about how she learned the importance of developing respect from colleagues and how it isn’t simply given. She also said a major takeaway was how you don’t know what you want to do until you try it. She connected it to her student experience in saying that you don’t always have to know what you want to do right away, but that you can experiment and figure out what fits for you. HBA member Olivia McWayne then reinforced the importance of networking and self-confidence in her experience before Alison Handler wrapped up the event by thanking all the volunteers and participants.