Being referred to as “princess” and “cupcake” or being told to be seen and not heard are among obstacles women executives have faced in the workplace. 

Leaders and aspiring professionals in long-term care confirmed the above while discussing the good, the bad and ugly that comes with being a woman in the industry during a McKnight’s Women of Distinction Forum session Wednesday. Some of those challenges have included adjusting the way they’ve had to dress or learning how to control their emotions.

“I think when you experience an issue, you’ve got to confront it and address it in a calm and logical manner without any emotions,” said Mary “Molly” Forrest, CEO – president of the LA Jewish Home. The discrimination women face now is more subtle, but the “old boys network” is still out there, she added. 

The panelists each said that, over time, things have improved for women in the industry — noting that women now are more educated, decorated and proven than before. 

There’s still a long way to go, however, noted Eleanor Alvarez, president and CEO of The Ganzhorn Suites and LeaderStat, Powell, OH. 

“I think it’s much better now, but we still have to find that seat at the table where the important decisions are being made, where resources are being allocated,” Alvarez said. “We still need to have more presence on corporate boards so that we can really influence the shape of our business practices, but mostly about how we deliver care and how we care for our elders as we look forward in the future.” 

Importance of mentorship

The speakers also stressed the key role that mentorship from other leaders — both men and women — has had on them and their success. Mentors help younger employees deal with various challenges, provide learning opportunities and encouragement when needed, according to Jaclyn Pritchett, vice president of human resources – field operations at Brentwood, TN-based Brookdale Senior Living.

“They offer different experiences and coaching, and they see the world differently, so that diversity of thought is really important. I wouldn’t be here today without those mentors, advocates, sponsors,” Pritchett said. “You cannot go on your career journey without mentors.” 

The leaders also offered advice to younger women starting in the industry, which included having a strong education and sense of professionalism, learning how to pick the right boss for their own success, jumping into challenges and proving themselves and being confident about what they bring to the table. 

“Don’t discount yourself. You have a voice; use it,” added Akia Blandon, vice president of clinical services at the Plaza Rehab and Nursing Center, Bronx, NY. 

“Be mindful of what situations you enter into, listen twice as much as you speak, but know that you do bring something to the table and don’t be afraid to stand on that authority,” Blandon added. 

Learning opportunities 

Forrest said in her 48 years in long-term care, every time she’s been faced with disappointment and heartache, “another door has opened that gave me a bridge.” She encouraged other women and young leaders to use those challenges as an opportunity to learn. 

“Overall, every experience has taught me something that I needed to know to be successful in what I do. It gives me an opportunity then to mentor others [or be] a role model. Leaders are role models first and foremost,” Forrest concluded. 

The session is available on-demand; to watch, sign in or register here.

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