Women Leaders Speak Up at Healthcare Summit

After working her way up from a clerical to managerial position, backing down from a challenge was certainly not part of her makeup, but Christine Martinelli didn’t see any benefit behind a job change.

“My boss came up to me and said ‘We’re going put you into benefits’ — and I cried,” said Martinelli, a benefits manager for the City of Rochester, N.Y. “After that, I can’t picture working in any other area because benefits are so important.”

Martinelli was taking part in a panel discussion at the Women’s Healthcare & Insurance Leadership Summit, which helped kick off the 6th World Medical Tourism & Global Healthcare Congress, in Las Vegas.

So Typical of Women

“I’m actually really surprised that with all of the leaders who convene each year at our congress that it has taken us this long to put this summit together,” said Renée-Marie Stephano, president of the Medical Tourism Association®. “Yet, with all of the moving pieces of our event, we hesitated to add another element. Isn’t that so typical — to put everyone else’s needs before our own.”

But, that may be changing as well. As women continue to assume thought and leadership positions in roles once dominated by their gender counterparts, opportunities to take time out to share and learn from each other become that much more essential.

Meaghan Benedict, who interacts with some 4,000 employees at IBM Integrated Health Services, raises three boys and volunteers at a faith-based organization in her community.

“When I’m at work, I’m at work; when I’m at home, I’m at home,” said Benedict, a global vitality manager at IBM and a panel participant at the women’s summit. “Our health is the most important thing. If we don’t take care of ourselves, if we aren’t emotionally, spiritually and physically fit, we can’t help others.”

Healers and Nurturers

By nature, the healthcare industry is one of nurturing and healing – qualities that are intuitive to women and that make many of them exceptional practitioners.

“I deal with newborns and retirees who have just lost their spouse,” said Martinelli, who completed her M.B.A. to coincide with her son’s high school graduation. “We can’t be a social worker, but we can have some compassion.”

Martinelli said the City of Rochester implemented a Labor/Management Healthcare Committee to help deal with escalating benefits costs in a union-intensive workplace. She said reaching out to evolving populations with different dynamics is nothing, but a challenge.

“People come to work for the city life,” she said. “At first, the union presidents didn’t want to hear about what we had to say about the rising costs of healthcare, but over the years they’ve bought in,” said Martinelli. “It’s been wonderful to see the education at work.”

Confidence and Patience

Working with expatriate employees in all parts of the world including India, Germany, and the United Kingdom, Benedict confronts a different set of challenges. Many clients she interacts with do not speak the same language. Confidence and patience are critical.

“Don’t be afraid to ask for clarification and get things in writing.” she said to more than 50 women at Caesars Palace. “Don’t worry about cultural difference because we are all the same inside.”

Commonality was a theme echoed throughout the event. Benedict said because so many women now work from home, establishing a presence in the office becomes that much more difficult.

Take Risks

“Whatever reason we are working, be confident in that decision and that whatever we do is good enough,” she said.

Susan Doherty, host of the Voice America Radio Business Channel and panel moderator, said there was a time she lacked the confidence to stand in front of a conference audience like the one before her and speak. Now, she finds herself offering advice to contemporaries, encouraging them to make an impression at the congress.

“Don’t be afraid to take risks in what you do,” she said. “Stand up. Take a deep breath and move forward. Share your voice. Be who you are. We are uniquely us. To hold back and not go forward is to deny those around us who might benefit. Don’t deny your neighbor of who you are.”

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