The health care industry, while dominated by women, traditionally lacks female leadership.
HNL Lab Medicine, which is celebrating 25 years since becoming independent from Lehigh Valley Health Network, is an exception.
Jessica Bargilione, vice president of marketing, HNL Lab Medicine of Allentown, said women represent 42% of the company’s executive committee and 70% of its leadership roles.
“We have strong leaders, and we make sure women are ready to take on higher roles when they get there,” she said.
The key is mentorship. Bargilione said the office mentorship program, which is open to everyone in the company, is educationally themed.
“Anyone who is interested in a mentor goes through human relations which matches them to a mentor who outlines objectives and then sets up a plan to achieve them,” she said.
Laura Bailey, director, Transfusion Medicine, said she tells women, “Don’t let anyone bully you or make you second guess yourself. There is definitely a
stereotype out there, yes, even today. that women are supposed to be passive and ‘nice.’ When a woman is confident and assertive, she can be labeled as intimidating or confrontational. But that same behavior in a man is seen as confidence and qualities of a leader. Don’t be afraid to stand your ground.”
The health care industry has had a tough time over the past few years due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Bargilione said. Many positions throughout the industry go unfilled after health care workers experienced burnout.
HNL Lab Medicine offers in-house training to help fill the needs in the community. Bargilione said the program is a jumping off point and employees can grow into other positions.
The mentor program, she said, gives employees the opportunity to grow both personally and professionally
“It’s not a shot in the dark, but a path to where they want to go,” she said. “This industry offers opportunities to go in so many directions and this company does a good job highlighting those opportunities.”
Renu Bajaj, associate medical director, Cytogenetics, said. “Have a passion? Find a mentor! I am fortunate to be a health care professional. There is nothing as fulfilling when you wake up in the morning and look forward to going to work and feel contented at the end of the day with the contribution you have made in someone’s life.
“Reflecting on this accomplishment made me inspire the next generation of health care professionals and develop their understanding of leadership,” Bajaj said. “However, passion alone cannot guide you to the leadership path. Having a mentor with a wealth of experience and knowledge that can push you to make challenging decisions is key. I have had the opportunity to work with incredible mentors during my path of growth to be a better professional.”
Kelly Frankenfield, director, Pathology Operations, said, “Education is foremost. Education provides diverse insights and helps create professional connections in the field. Women should use their education to develop transformative leadership skills that align their individual strengths with their professional goals”
Frankenfield said when goals are aligned to the strategic roadmap of the company, opportunities for advancement open.
“Learning should never stop. The health care industry and its workforce are constantly changing. Staying abreast of new technologies and fostering growth within your teams will enhance the well-being of our patients while maximizing the company’s growth potential,” she said.
One of the biggest challenges women still face is equal pay. Bargilione added that women are still expected to be quieter, less outspoken.
“Our leaders are so strong; they have a vision of what the challenges are and are making progress in closing the gaps. But there is still a long way to go,” she said.
The progress can be seen with the 60 people still with the company since its inception. “That’s because of our career ladder,” she said.
Amy Hoherchak, vice president of clinical lab, Acute Care Laboratory Operations said mentoring teaches people to surround themselves with truly good people who innately do the right thing.
“Create a strong and diverse team with varying skills and talents that complement each other. This is what has helped me succeed in my leadership roles. Leading people means knowing what you don’t know and allowing your team to show off what they excel at! When you bring the right people together, you can accomplish great things,” she said.
“My #1 piece of advice to women interested in becoming a leader in the health care industry would be to develop your emotional intelligence. You must read a room quickly, show respect and empath, and trust your intuition,” said Lisa Anthony, senior executive, Health Systems Partnerships. “All of these play an important role in developing this skill. Developing your emotional intelligence isn’t something that happens overnight. It grows over time and requires continual improvement. Learn how to use it to your advantage.”
Another lesson Anthony offers is, “You don’t need to do your job alone. Build a strong team and don’t be afraid to rely on them when their expertise is needed. Remember, that’s why you chose them in the first place.”