By Pam McDonald

In Part 2, we continue with background on Senior Living FORESIGHT’s Empower initiative that seeks to reduce challenges for women in the industry and provide more opportunities to contribute to their organizations and the elderly they serve. Below are takeaways from an interview by podcast Co-Host Pam McDonald with Mary Ann Donaghy, former chief marketing and communications officer for NIC and now a researcher/consultant. You can listen to the interview here. To read part one of this article, click here.

Education – The Initiative’s Second Prong

Educational programming is the second prong to our approach and something that I know Steve has been contemplating for some time. He’s done some work on one-day educational programs that are specific to developing skill sets in community operations. So, we’re working on finalizing a list of, at least, initial educational programs that we’ll offer, both face-to-face and through webinars. 

This may include a specific skill set, for example, a health and wellness director, which is a really challenging but important role. Another educational seminar could be around communication. How do you communicate in a way that’s effective, reflecting the ways that different genders communicate and operate? So, we’ll start with just a few again. We can’t boil the ocean at once, so we’ll start. 

Awareness of the Gaps – The Survey

The third prong is awareness. It’s really important for everybody to understand the realities of how different genders and different ethnic groups are experiencing the workplace. And, we’re doing a survey to get a strong understanding of various demographics. We will be able to do a pretty deep analysis on that and then we’ll share it. There are a lot of articles out there, books that highlight how to succeed with the gender gaps, how to improve communication, improve your management styles. So, we’re going to have a sort of education arm that will include these seminars, webinars, and articles. We’ll have links to articles, recommended books, blogs, things like that, that may be useful to the women in the sector.

First, we want to get some idea about the women who are already in the business and try to understand what their needs are. The findings from our survey will, in part, inform the priorities for our educational programs. So, we’ll be doing some questions that will make it clear where the respondents feel the biggest gaps or needs are. And then, we’re going to try to make other women in senior living aware of the initiative itself. It also will be really helpful in understanding, quantitatively, the impact that we’ll be able to make and how we can prioritize our efforts.

So, step one, we’ll be building a website, which will house mentorship details and applications, and links to all the educational resources and information. We’re working on that as the core, the house, so to speak, of everything that we’re doing. We expect within the next six months to have everything up and running. But we are in the early stages. 

What Success for Empower Looks Like

If we’re successful, first of all, we’ll have hundreds of mentors and mentees. We will have mentees who feel that the program has been a game changer for their career. We’ll have a lot more women who are confident, more effective, and better able to contribute to their organizations. We’ll have organizations very happy with the improvements they’re seeing in interpersonal relationships, collaboration, and culture overall.

I also think we need to increase the awareness of the differences we all bring into the workplace: the different perspectives, the different communication styles, the different expectations. They can be very different by gender and by some other variables in our lives. So, I think closing that gap of understanding and communication is a real opportunity and the impact on individuals and organizations could be significant. 

Feedback and More Feedback

We would love feedback from women and men on what they think beyond the survey. What ideas they have to achieve these goals of positively impacting organizations, culture, and individuals in the industry so they can make the most contribution for the good of their organizations and the industry. So, if there are key areas that folks think we should focus on, we would love to hear it. 

We have a great advisory board of about 30 folks who have been very instrumental and insightful about where they think the opportunities, gaps, and challenges are. We’d love to hear from others. I spent the majority of my career outside this sector, so my view is from my 30 years of working in Corporate America. I’m bringing a sort of inside and outside view. But, having that industry perspective is really important, and the more we can hear from others, the more valuable what we do will be.

A Phenomenal Industry with Amazing Leaders

I think this is an amazing sector. I’ve never worked in a sector with such really good, smart, motivated people who really want to do what’s best for the industry. I certainly saw that while I was at NIC. So many volunteers contributed their time really for the good of the industry and, ultimately, for the good of our residents and America’s elders. That is a great foundation to start with. 

There are some phenomenal women in the sector who are great leaders, innovators. They serve as role models for any females in the organization, but really for all people in the organization. I’m really excited to see both men and women get involved with this. So, stay tuned. We’ll reconnect every couple of months with an update.

Listen to our new podcast tomorrow with Mary Ann who brings us up to date on Empower.

These takeaways have been lightly edited for space and style.