By Pam McDonald

In Part 2 of the takeaways from our latest interview with Empower Board Member Mary Ann Donaghy, she describes the continued progress being made to help women in the industry maximize their contributions and achieve their career goals. Here she reviews significant findings from the group’s February opinion survey. To learn more about or to support Empower, contact Mary Ann at [email protected] Below are takeaways from the interview, which you can listen to here.

Perceptions Make a Difference

We presented these findings at “Our Time to Shine”, Senior Living Foresight’s virtual conference. In that session, we had a really fascinating woman named Allison Furgal, an organizational psychologist and professor at the University of North Carolina. She does a lot of research on the topic of how women and men experience the workplace differently as well as the implications and impact of that. She’s also trying to help develop some strategies to overcome some of those challenges.

She said there are two unique challenges for women. One is that they are more likely to be overlooked, and the other is that they’re more likely to be disliked. She says, if Eric is seen as more leader-like when he speaks up with a proactive idea, Erica is not. Howard is a genius for being strategic with his network, Heidi is a user. So, the perceptions are different.

One strategy for women is to highlight their concern for other people, to be aware of not coming across as self-serving, and to advocate and promote others. Women should also use the idea of deposit then withdraw, doing more for other people before you ask someone to do something for you.

Insecurity Leads to Bullying

Organizations really need to understand that insecurity leads to bullying. So, when an executive, a director, or somebody who’s in a leadership or supervisory role is not being supported by the organization or by their management, it gives them a sense of insecurity and there can be bullying. Or, if you’re the subordinate and you don’t feel secure in your role, then you may bully others.

Allison also said that we perceive low-status powerholders as bullies. So, if a man and woman come in with the same role, the man is by default viewed as more respected and validated. So, women have to be promoted more by the organization from a verbal standpoint. They need to make sure that the organization knows about their credentials, their successes in previous roles, and what they’re responsible for. So, respect is better communicated or the respect of that responsibility that they have is readily communicated. Leaders in the organization need to talk up their leaders so insecurity is minimized.

I have this philosophy – insecurity is the root of all evil. So, an organization really needs to be aware of how important it is to recognize employees, give them kudos, and acknowledge their skills and their contributions at all levels. Again, this is based on Allison’s research. Those who want to watch a video of that presentation can access it here.

Priorities for Training 

We asked a question about what’s the most important focus for Empower. The number one answer was retaining quality staff in the communities, and increase focus on mentoring staff, increasing training, and improving senior leadership in the communities. If you do those things, you probably are going to retain that quality staff in the communities and also improve the organization’s culture.

Obviously, like everybody else, we’ve been slowed down a bit over the realities of the last couple of months. But we’ve continued to move some things forward. We have identified an organization that has a pretty simple plug-and-play mentoring platform, and they will also be building our new website. They’re going to be working on this over the next two months and we were shooting for early September to launch.

Close to Launching the Mentorship Program

The website will initially be populated with content that we have available: links to articles and books and things that will be educational and help folks sort out the issues. Then we will have an application process for the mentorship program within the website. We’re going to first recruit mentors, so we have a good arsenal available representing various areas of expertise and levels to start us off. Then we’ll open it up to mentees.

The website will replace the Empower page currently on Senior Living Foresight’s site. We’re going to create a microsite that will give us a lot more options to build and format the content and create an appropriate user experience so that the mentor platform will be accessed from within that website.

Future Endeavors

Underleveraging the skills and knowledge of staff as well as the bullying issue will be something we’ll need to look at. We’ve got a committee that’s going to be working on those. Certainly, in the future, we’d love to see some round table discussions that are more intimate and really honest that we can have when the time is right. Initially, the educational programs will be web-based, virtual.

I also did the follow-up research for the “Our Time to Shine” conference and the vast majority of people felt the quality of the content and the overall value of the conference was equal to that of an onsite or live conference. So that gives us some positive feedback that people are enjoying it and getting value from It. (Senior Living Foresight has made this session available for free. You can access it HERE.)

Getting Involved

I encourage anyone who’s in a position to do so to get involved with Empower, be a sponsor, get involved in some education programs. Maybe they have some case studies, some information they can share. Anyone who has an interesting article or book that they’ve read, please send that to me – [email protected] for the Empower website. Anyone interested in sponsorship or anything else can reach out to Steve at [email protected]. And, I’d just like to thank Steve for providing his support for this. We’re very hopeful and excited to make a positive contribution to our sector.

These takeaways have been lightly edited for space and style.