Lan Nguyen 0:02
Many women leaders are also mothers who regularly juggle the demanding responsibilities of work and family. As many of our guests have noted across this season, “balance is a misnomer”. There are times when we find ourselves closer to work, and times when we are closer to home, we must build villages of support on both sides to make it all work. In this special edition of Her Story, three accomplished leaders across different sectors of healthcare share some of their experiences in navigating workplace dynamics as a mother. First we hear from Dr. Vineet, also known as Vinny Aurora, Professor of Medicine and associate Chief Medical Officer for Clinical Learning Environment at the University of Chicago medicine.
Vinny Arora 0:46
I am often struck by the fact that having children allows me to think about things that I’m not normally thinking about, like the plight of parents in our organization or how to handle evening meetings and things like that, so I can be a better leader in that space. Having said that, I also have to draw a line and I’m fortunate that I am part of an organization and a leadership team that’s able to draw that line. Having said that, I will disclose that on the team, a senior leadership team, I am the only woman with children in my smaller group. The men have children and the other two women don’t, and so it’s something I think about in the sense that I also escalated up the leadership path with no children. I now happen to have young children and am still a leader, so I find that I see myself on both sides of that coin. I remember what it was like to be in my late 30s and not have kids and be dumped on with work, and I also now know that it’s extremely difficult right now as well. And so you have to be thoughtful on both sides. I will say, when I disclosed to my boss I was pregnant, I was super nervous. You know, I was in a leadership position, I’d been in it for a year, and he was so happy and gracious. And he was like, “We’re gonna make it work.” Every woman out there needs to find that pod of people who’s going to support them like I am supported.
Lan Nguyen 2:12
Next is Nancy-Ann DeParle, Managing Partner and Co-founder, Consonant Capital Partners and former Assistant to President Barack Obama.
Nancy-Ann DeParle 2:20
She sat me down and she said, “Let’s talk about your career.” And she was just a great mentor. And then we talked about coming out to run HCFA . And I said, “Well, you know, I just got married, and my husband and I want to start a family. So that’s really important to me.” And Donna Shalala said, “Oh, well, that’s great. We had a lot of babies here. Kevin Thurm had a baby and Rich Tarplin had two babies, I think. And that’ll be great. We’ll do it here.” And thought, “Well, I don’t want to put a damper on this, but it is a little bit different when you’re the mom having the baby and— But who knows, we’ll see how this works out. And it came to be an issue after I’d been confirmed at run HCFA and run it for about a year. And this was during the Balanced Budget Act, as you’ll recall, of ’97, the implementation of that which remains the largest cuts ever to the Medicare program. That’s what we were implementing, and I was pregnant. And I went in to talk to Don about how we were going to handle it and she said, “Well, of course you’re going to take maternity leave.” Well, it turned out, there was no provision in law for a senate confirmed appointee to take maternity leave. There is no provision in law. As far as I know, that’s never been changed. You’re technically on duty 24/7 and there is no provision for leave. And in fact, she said, “I can’t believe that’s right.” So she had the general counsel call over to the Justice Department and they said, “There’s nothing in the statute that allows you to take a leave.” So Donna—uncowed and unbowed by that—said, “Well, this is what you need, this is what the baby needs, so you’re taking the leave. Here’s the list of senators. You call 50 of them and I’ll call 50 of them and we’ll just tell them that’s what you’re doing. You’re taking three months.” So that’s what we did and, to their credit, they were all very nice and supportive of it, bipartisan. And so I took three months off, but it was a fantastic experience. And it’s a theme. The theme is mentors, and especially women mentors.
Lan Nguyen 4:30
Wrapping us up is Kim Keck, President and CEO of Blue Cross Blue Shield Association.
Kim Keck 4:36
The first time I really remember being in a situation where I was explicitly the only woman and I felt a little uncomfortable was a time many, many years ago. It was in finance and I was doing M&A. And I remember being on a telephone call. It was probably Sunday evening and it was a time when there weren’t any such things as cell phones. We did have a cordless phone, it was called, but the mute button wasn’t really that accessible and I remember locking myself in a closet because I was the only female on this call and just trying to conduct this call. And my two-year-old at the time pounding the door screaming, “Mommy!” And I remember thinking, “Okay, this is a little awkward” and having to deal with trying to find that mute button really fast and try to excuse myself from all the men to take care of something I needed to do. It felt very different because I just felt not everyone had to pause and to do that, but I just had to do what I felt was right at the time.
Lan Nguyen 5:36
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