New Next – Female Veterinary Leaders
Key opportunities to drive diverse ideas and innovation built from the unique core capabilities of female veterinary leaders.
One of the shifts we’ve been watching across our industry is the increasing number of women rising up through the ranks to senior positions at global animal health companies. I’m certainly excited to see more female veterinary leaders than when I started in the industry 23 years ago. Yet, even with the shift, only 15% of the executives within the top 10 leading animal health companies are women. (1) Although I appreciate how far we have come, I also recognize an additional hill to climb for gender parity and more diverse leadership teams in animal health. In the organization I am honored to chair, Women in Leadership and Management in Animal Health (WILMAH), we built a plan for 2020 that was not only intended to improve the number of women in leadership positions, but to become a powerful catalyst to advocate for diversity and change within our industry.
However, over the past few months, I have been watching another shift occur, which could potentially become a challenge for women in any industry. COVID-19 has changed how we view the world and has immediately crashed into the lives of many women I know who now play multiple roles of teacher, conference call leader, technology expert, and all-day chef while managing emails and schedules across work and family. In addition, 52% of all essential workers are women. “Women make up nearly nine out of 10 nurses and nursing assistants, most respiratory therapists, a majority of pharmacists, and an overwhelming majority of pharmacy aids and technicians.” (2) We are all very aware of the statistics within the essential veterinary industry where veterinarians and staff are overwhelmingly women as well.
Strength amid disruption
Some may say COVID-19 could set us back due to disruption or distraction as well as concerns over our jobs and the health of our families. But I have seen new strengths emerge from the disruption. New ways that women will not only come together as a community and help support our industry in this challenging time but key opportunities to drive a “new next” of diverse ideas and innovation built from our unique core capabilities as women leaders.
No. 1: Everyone has proven you can work from home and still be impactful.
Over my time as a leader, I’ve heard countless comments when discussing promotions for certain roles such as “I don’t think he/she can travel” or “this job requires you to be at headquarters and he/she can’t move.” No longer should we use these as excuses to eliminate an employee for a potential new position, as we’ve proven in the past few months that you can have critical calls with customers, employees, suppliers, and executives all while at your home office and computer. I firmly believe this will be an advantage for women’s advancement in future talent discussions. We must hold onto this new learning and continue to prove its worth.
No. 2: Women’s emotional intelligence will show through in our leadership styles.
Research shows that high emotional intelligence or EQ makes a top-performing leader, no matter their gender. In research conducted by the Korn Ferry Hay group which interviewed over 55,000 professionals in 90 different countries, the critical finding was women outperformed men in 11 out of 12 emotional intelligence competencies. (3) Why is this important? During COVID-19, how we are responding to our teams and our customers is extraordinarily significant to encourage and motivate productivity even during challenging times. Taking the time to connect with the person on video and learn more about their family environment helps to understand other perspectives and create stronger solutions.
No. 3: Leveraging emerging innovative technology to make connections outside of our normal circle.
To me, this could be the most critical learning. Early in 2020, WILMAH launched our new Mentoring Platform, powered by Chronus, one of the leaders in mentoring software globally. I was quickly connected to two wonderful women that I had never met before, and quite honestly, given their roles and locations in the country, I may never have had the opportunity to meet. Since the launch of our mentorship platform in January, we have 200 active users and 135 active mentoring connections between mentor and mentee.
Many of our WILMAH members are wearing both mentor and mentee hats, and many of our mentors are mentoring one to two mentees. This mentorship connection in addition to their daily jobs, families, personal lives, etc., is leading to connections, conversations, growth opportunities among a variety of backgrounds and organizations. We could not be prouder of the success of this program, especially during these unprecedented times.
I never thought I would write an article about how a pandemic changed the world in my lifetime. But I do believe in change agents, which was one of the reasons why WILMAH was founded. Rising from the past few months will be a different view of the world, a new way of working, and abundant opportunities to step up and create change. WILMAH will continue to be at the forefront to advocate for this new reality.
1 Animal Pharm 2018
2 New York Times, “How Millions of Women Became the Most Essential Workers in America,” April 18, 2020
3 Psychology Today, “New Research: Women Consistently Outperform Men in EQ,” March 16, 2016