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“To whom much is given, much is required.”
That’s the foundation of Nikki Jones’ approach not only to how she leads her life but how she can impact the lives of others.
As chief people and DEI officer of the Healthcare Businesswomen’s Association, a nonprofit with the core purpose of “further(ing) the advancement and impact of women in the business of healthcare,” Jones is determined to push the envelope to raise awareness around inequities in the workplace for women from pay gaps to hiring practices and career advancement — all while holding companies accountable for their actions.
“I firmly believe that if you’ve been given access and you’ve been given great opportunities, it’s your responsibility to pay it forward. It’s your responsibility to ensure that someone else in your sphere of influence, whether now or in the future, is able to have those same — and even greater — opportunities,” she said. “As a woman of color, yes, I’ve struggled because of the amount of melanin that’s in my skin, but that should not be a reason why I’m held back from opportunities.”
One of the gender disparity areas the HBA has begun to track is the gender pay gap, which the HBA measures using a symbolic day showing how much longer the average woman needs to work to make the same amount as her average white, non-Hispanic male counterpart from the year before. For women overall, that day is March 15, but the number differs greatly depending on the woman’s skin color.
“In 2022, for women of color that date moved back an entire month to September,” she said. “And for Hispanic women, that date has now moved back to December. It’s really disparaging information to clearly see that the gap is widening for these demographics of women and that’s something that we should care about, and we need to do something about.”
Several years ago, the HBA’s Gender Parity collaborative was created to galvanize the association’s voice as a way to address the issues around inequity together.
“We are pulling companies from across the healthcare industry into one room, into a safe space, where senior executive leaders can talk about the systemic and environmental issues that are creating barriers for women advancing in the workplace,” Jones said.
During her 13-year tenure with the association, Jones has mastered new competencies, moving from finance to talent management, which have allowed her to evolve her skill sets and influence to benefit not just the HBA but the industry at large. Big leaps require courage, and Jones has always considered obstacles as opportunities or as she said “lessons not losses.”
“It all starts with that leap of faith and being a fire starter for yourself,” Jones said. “Others can come alongside and add to that fire and amplify it, but as women we have got to take the reins and say, ‘You know what, I’m ready to really start out on a new journey.’”
In her new C-suite role, Jones recognizes that she is a role model, which is a responsibility she does not take lightly.
“You’ve got to be real, and that means sharing your strengths, sharing your journey, the ups and downs, the round-the-curves, the moments where you stopped on the road and someone had to come and pick you up,” she said. “I truly believe in the call to sharing all in an effort to help other women and to help others who are looking toward even going further. I also recognize that along my journey, other people have helped me. So, it’s my responsibility to do the same for others and help them in their journey.”
In this week’s episode of our Woman of the Week podcast, Jones shares tips for how companies can address gender parity and how the HBA changed her life.
Welcome to WoW, the Woman of the Week podcast by PharmaVoice powered by Industry Dive.
In this episode, Taren Grom, editor and chief emeritus at PharmaVoice, meets with Nikki Jones, chief people and DEI officer, Healthcare Businesswomen’s Association.
Taren: Nikki, welcome to the WoW podcast program.
Nikki: Hello, Taren. It is my absolute pleasure to be with you today. Thank you so much for this wonderful invitation to be on WoW.
Taren: Well, we are so excited to have you on WoW. And I want to congratulate you sincerely on your recently announced new role and promotion as chief people and DE&I officer of the Healthcare Businesswomen’s Association. Really a well-deserved recognition and a role that I feel that you are perfectly suited for, and that you’ve been working toward for such a long time. And it’s a first for the HBA. So, tell me, what is your overall remit for the organization?
Nikki: Taren, thank you so much. This is an incredible opportunity that I’ve been given. I’ve been at HBA for 13 years now, just this month, so I’m in celebration mode and really reflecting upon my leadership journey here starting out in the finance organization. And then around 2017, really taking a hard look at where are my gifts, where are my skill sets, and where do I really want to make an impact. So based on what we always share with our volunteers about owning your career, reinventing yourself, finding your space and your niche, I was able to do that under the leadership of our previous CEO. I was very fortunate to be able to move into the HR talent management function. And most recently, I’ve also become certified through Society of Human Resource Management as a certified professional in HR.
And then most recently over the last year with the rise of the racial inequities, health inequities due to the pandemic, the organization saw that there was a need that could be filled in making sure that we as an organization and as an association are as diverse, as inclusive, as equitable as we could possibly be for our membership and for the patients that our members are serving in the healthcare industry. So, in this particular role as the chief people and DE&I officer, I am responsible for ensuring that our staff…first of all, we’ve got a 25-member staff who supports the organization and works alongside of our board of directors as well as our membership to provide value to our individual members and our companies. So in that role, I’m responsible for ensuring that we have an inclusive work environment, that we are walking the talk, and being able to ensure that every single employee feels a sense of belonging where they come to work and they enjoy working here as we are focused on fulfilling the mission of the HBA, which is accelerating gender parity and also ensuring that women are able to live into their fullest potential in the workplace, in the healthcare industry.
So, in this new role, this hybrid role, in regard to people and DE&I, I think that it’s really a good fusion of the work that I’ve done in my own personal leadership journey as well as here at the association. And we’re at a space and time where these are things that we really need to focus on if we’re going to move the needle on women’s leadership in the healthcare industry and ensure that our workplaces are truly more diverse, equitable, and inclusive.
Taren: Wow, Nikki, that is quite a big bucket. That’s a lot. And it’s so great that HBA recognizes that DE&I is having its moment right now and there’s no going back. We just are going forward in the best way possible. And I know we’re going to talk about this a little bit later on, it started off several years ago with the gender parity collaborative. This seems like this is sort of an extension of that and the great work that’s been done along those lines. So, tell me, what are your top three goals for the short term, and then what is the longer-term vision for DE&I initiatives for the association and how are you going to measure success?
Nikki: Those are great questions and ones that we really had to consider as we moved more intensely into the diversity, equity, and inclusion space. HBA for over 45 years has been around really pushing for gender parity, trying to create a space and ensure that women had a voice at the table in terms of senior leadership and ensuring that our voice was in a space where we could really impact decision making, which ultimately, we believe will really impact patient outcomes. So, in this particular space, we’re not really doing anything different because we’ve always really been focused on leadership development for women, ensuring that women had equitable access and opportunities to ascend to those senior leadership roles.
Where we’re moving now is based off of the data, and again HBA was the champion partner with McKinsey with their Women in the Workplace study for the last few years. But the data is still showing that there are certain populations of women that are not advancing as quickly as we would like. The data is still showing that women of color are still lagging behind in terms of advancement, promotion, retention in the workplace particularly over the last two years with the pandemic, and the struggles that we’ve had from an economic perspective, health perspective – there’s still so much work to do. So HBA at its very core mission in terms of advancing women, that means all women, and that means taking a look at the data and ensuring where we can make an impact and make consistent impact. You can go at it something for a period of time and then feel as though that maybe there’s no more impact to be made, or it’s not the end thing to do – that’s not HBA. We want to make sustained impact for all women, and that means looking at the data and making sure that we can make inroads and what are the strategies we can put in place to really move the needle, make an impact, see the boardrooms shift, be able to see senior management shift in all of our companies. And ultimately, we would love to be a model for not just the healthcare industry, but in general.
And I do believe, as you mentioned, the gender parity collaborative is a space where change is happening at the very senior levels of leadership; and HBA, as a convener, we are helping to make that change possible. So, with the top three goals, we’d love to see gender parity in terms of leadership; really, that would be the standard if we’re talking about a goal. I remember hearing years ago that in terms of HBA, our goal would be that at some point we would not necessarily need to be in existence because gender parity would’ve been achieved. There’s equal balance in leadership. All women are having equitable opportunities for access to advance in whatever area that they would like to see, but until then we have work to do.
So short term, one of the things that we were really focused on was looking at our membership, our association membership, and trying to ensure that our leadership really mirrored our membership, both in our individual members and in our companies. We can’t be purporting something that we’re not practicing ourselves. So, we went down the road of ensuring that our global board of directors, our volunteer committees, our central staff, our entire united force for change really is now comprised of more diverse backgrounds, experiences, and perspectives. So that was a real initial short-term goal when we focused on our DE&I journey starting in 2021. And that continues to be a goal for us to ensure that our leadership, our programming, and all of our policies and practices are really mirroring the diverse nature of the populations that we’re looking to serve.
Taren: It’s such important work that you all are doing, and once again the HBA seems to be a little bit ahead of the curve in terms of addressing some of these really important issues that still are plaguing so many companies. We really have to address the fact that there are still systemic inequalities that are happening within large corporations even though they are putting money and resources against it. But yet, there are still so many unconscious biases that remain, and so the work that you all are doing is really so important to help move that needle. You talked about gender parity and equal access, but what we don’t talk about, or I haven’t heard talked about is how do we start to ensure equal pay because to me that is a measure of success as well. We still know that women are not paid at the same rate as men. Is this something the HBA is going to be looking into?
Nikki: We are not only looking into it, Taren, we are actively focused on raising awareness that there are serious issues. Some reports and you look at it from a U.S. perspective and then also from a global perspective, it looks as though there has been some progress. There was the European pay gap report that was recently shared last month where it shows a little bit of movement. But compared year over year, overall women are still lagging behind in terms of equal pay for the same job that a white male would be making. And HBA particularly, if you’ll notice on our social media outlets, there are certain days of the year where we are measuring how far into the year that a woman will have to work to equal that of a white non-Hispanic male from the previous year.
So, there are different points in the year. So earlier in the year there’s the women in general and then there’s the Asian women pay gap, which is a little bit later in the year. Then once you start to migrate into the later part of the year, there’s black women’s equal pay day which, I’ll just share this bit, previously used to be in August for the last two to three years. Just this year for 2022, that date moved back an entire month to September. And for Hispanic women, that date has now moved back to December. So, it’s really disparaging information to clearly see that the gap is widening for demographics of women and that’s something that we should care about and we do need to do something about.
So HBA is raising awareness: number one, that there clearly are still inequities in pay in the workplace. And what are we doing about it? We are raising the flag, we ourselves from an internal perspective for staff. We just shared with the staff a full benchmark study from the ASAE, which is the Association for Associations, the compensation benchmark. So, they could fully see here are the salaries for associations and based off of your level, this is where you should be pacing. That was our step for transparency first for our staff, our internal staff. We are encouraging others to do the same, other companies, realizing that there are some sensitivities with certain levels of pay, but it first starts with transparency. You have to understand based on that particular job what is the equivalent pay and why would a man earn more, why would a female earn less. There’s no reason for it particularly if the job is the job is the job, then the pay should be the pay, should be the pay regardless of your gender, regardless of your sexual orientation or your identity, or your ability; and that’s something that’s really not necessarily spoken of as well. And that’s one of the facets from a DE&I perspective that we are also focused on highlighting the inequities from an ability perspective, professional, cultural, faith.
So, we’re really moving in and leaning in hard, but the pay inequity is something that we’ve got to make progress on or we’re going to experience another wave of women leaving the workforce, leaving highly qualified women leaving the workforce to either start businesses, which is also great, but again we need that talent inside of the industry.
Taren: Right. Absolutely, because you need to nurture that talent pipeline throughout their entire organization. I had heard at some point…I’m going to say this number and it is more or less accurate, that women almost leave almost a million dollars in salary on the table at the end of their career because they start – like where that gap happens and they’re leaving so much money on the table. That is a frightening thing because it just leads to so many other aspects that are an equal in life. So how do you ever become financially stable on your own, how do you become able to afford a house – all those different things. So, I’m so happy to hear that the HBA is tackling this because I do think it’s been an issue for so long, obviously. And good for you all to be ahead of the curve or starting to push this out and make this more aware in the industry. We talked about the gender parity collaborative a little bit ago, so let’s talk about it some more in depth here. What is the mission of that gender parity collaborative, and can you share some progress that’s been made over the last couple of years?
Nikki: Absolutely. Well, the gender parity collaborative was launched in 2018, powered by the Healthcare Businesswomen’s Association because we saw that, one, HBA has a very unique voice in the industry as a convener. HBA is an organization that, one, benefits our members, promoting leadership development for women, ensuring that women are prepared to walk into those senior level roles and be able to advance in their careers. But what good is it if you’ve got this boatload of women that are prepared to walk into these positions, but the companies themselves are not prepared, one, to actually recognize the talent, receive the talent, retain the talent, and then promote from within.
So, what we started doing was really trying to galvanize the HBA’s voice as a convener, pulling companies from across the healthcare industry into one room, into a safe space, where senior executive leaders can really, really talk about what are the systemic and environmental issues that are really creating barriers for women advancing in the workplace. And the gender parity collaborative was birthed. It is now an award-winning consortium of healthcare and life sciences companies, and we’re really dedicated to accelerating gender and diversity. I’ll put an emphasis on accelerating because there were studies that were done a few years ago saying that it was going to take 120 years for gender parity, ensuring that in leadership positions that there’s an equal balance of both male and female representation.
So, the collaborative is focused on accelerating that hundred-plus year number that was out there. But together, all of these collaborative member companies, they commit to taking on an active role and defining strategies, measuring performance, and really creating an influencing change in the healthcare but also inspiring those outside of healthcare. So, these member companies, I’m so proud to work with these companies, 15 member companies that have come together over these last four years that the collaborative has been in existence. They meet, one, as a global council where the executive leaders, the CEOs, the very senior leaders of the organization, come together to define the priorities for the upcoming year. And in the upcoming year there’s a smaller subset of members of those companies come together in solution summits two to three times a year where they’re talking about the issues inside of their companies, but also what’s happening systemically and what can they do together as one voice to really make a significant impact.
And our companies, based on the data that we’ve been able to collect, again we were working with McKinsey, and being able to leverage the power of their voice in terms of data and analysis in the Women in the Workplace study and looking at the companies that were participating, our founding companies, as well as those that have come into the collaborative over the last few years. Companies in the collaborative on average have been outperforming those other companies that are not in the collaborative in the pharmaceutical industry when you’re looking at women and your SVP C-suite level roles.
So there’s something that we’re doing right, and that’s the piece that we want to be able to amplify what we’re doing, how we’re tackling the challenges because again no one is saying that we’ve got it all right, but the things that are working it’s a collaborative where we’re sharing best practices amongst the companies that are involved in the collaborative, but then also making a commitment to hold ourselves accountable for making progress year over year, and then speaking externally to both the healthcare and any other industry that’s looking really to make inroads in gender parity and gender equity.
Taren: Well, congratulations. It’s so heartening to hear that the collaborative is doing so well. I knew it was a fabulous idea back in 2018 or 2017 when putting it together and to see the success that has come from it is really heartening, so kudos to all those involved. For companies that aren’t part of the collaborative though, what are two or three things they can do immediately to start to address gender balance in their own organizations as well as actionable DE&I initiatives? What are a couple of those things?
Nikki: Well, first thing I would say is come see us at HBA. I know I had to do that shameless plug. But again, I think the key is connecting to those that are making progress, connecting to those that are doing the work. And one of the critical things, and we just had the global council meeting last week where they’re focusing on what are we going to be doing in the upcoming year, what are the critical things in the last few years advancing women of color in the workplace – that has been a critical issue. Ensuring that we’re driving accountability for DE&I throughout organizations, that was the second primary issue that we saw. If we could really, really come up with some solutions there, we can make a significant impact.
So, the upcoming year, we’re not relenting with women of color because the data is showing that there’s still so much work that we need to do. Women of color are not advancing as quickly as other demographics. Again, we want all women to advance and there’s systemic issues for all women. But definitely with women of color, you’re going to be seeing something coming out very soon from the collaborative, a playbook – something that describes strategies that companies can take a hold of and really leverage and map out their own pathway to success. So, one of the big ways…you are asking what some things are that companies can do. Next year, we’re focusing on inclusive workplaces and inclusive cultures and that larger umbrella really encompasses so much for all women and allies, men as allies as well. Talking to your employees, what is it that’s really driving their experience in the workplace, what are the things that would cause them to stay – it’s almost like doing a stay interview. We’re talking about exit interviews when people leave, but by that point it’s done, there’s nothing you can do about it.
So, I would say to companies that are not in the collaborative now and not able to really glean from the insights that the companies, the subject matter experts that we bring in to speak to the collaborative, I would definitely say start with really doing surveys of your employees, surveys of your culture, building out and documenting what is your culture. Many times, we’ve worked for companies where there’s this unspoken rule or unspoken culture where you know to do certain things, you don’t know to do certain things. What are the things that we did from an HBA staff perspective? We took the time a few years ago to document our culture – what are our values; what are the things that we say are non-negotiable when it comes to working in our workplace. And it was developed by the staff. We committed ourselves to it and we hold ourselves accountable from wherever you are in the organization regardless of title, level, tenure. We have all said that these are the things that we want to hold ourselves accountable to.
So, I would share with any company that’s looking to advance gender parity, being able to advance diversity initiatives inside of their organizations, it all starts with serving the companies, the individuals that you have on your team. But then what is that aspirational culture? Where do we want to be in terms of how people engage with one another? That then is the basis for how you’re engaging with your customers and the people that you serve. So that’s really one big piece that I think everyone can start out doing is just surveying. What are the experiences of women in your workplace? What are they saying about your time-off policies? What are they saying about your pay? Give them data, give them a space to share, and then leadership has to commit to doing something about it. It’s no good creating surveys and asking people what they think and doing focus groups if you’re not going to commit to actionable steps. And I think this again ties back to the collaborative because the companies inside of the collaborative have committed to holding themselves accountable inside of their local companies but in that collective group. So, we’re sharing what we’re doing, we’re sharing our challenges and struggles, and then collectively looking at how we can move forward.
Taren: Excellent. That is a great tip. I love that it’s surveying but it’s also holding themselves accountable. Because you’re right, you can do all the surveys you want but if you don’t do anything against the feedback, then you lose credibility with your employees as well.
Nikki: Absolutely. And then there’s the revolving door and that goes back to talent management. It’s the retention. It is rare to hear people say that they’ve been in a place for 10-plus years. The market where we are now, it’s not like that. People are shifting and changing in terms of their needs for their families, their careers. So, workplaces have to be nimble and very flexible in terms of meeting the needs that they have for current employees but then also being attractive for those that they’re looking to bring into the organization.
Taren: And let’s face it, we all know it’s far more expensive to bring in a new hire than it is to retain somebody so need to really keep your eye on the prize there. It’s great advice, Nikki. Thank you so much. As a woman of color, yourself and as a C-suite executive, you are a role model to other women. What does this responsibility mean to you?
Nikki: The first thing that comes to mind again for me, I operate out of a sense of authenticity of who I am, who I was created to be. Part of who I am, I am a woman of faith, so the first thing that comes to mind when you ask me that question in my faith, the faith that I practice, there’s a scripture that says, “To whom much is given, much is required” and I firmly do believe that. If you’ve been given access, you’ve been given great opportunities, it’s your responsibility to pay it forward. It’s your responsibility to ensure that someone else in your sphere of influence, whether now or in the future are able to have those same and even greater opportunities. So as a woman of color, yes, I’ve struggled because of the description, the amount of melanin that’s in my skin, but that should not be a reason why I’m held back from other opportunities so that’s why I’ve continuously fought to ensure that all women have the access to showcase who they are.
And now in this particular role, and I do recognize being a part of the C-suite that I am a role model. I do not take it lightly, but I also don’t take myself too seriously. You’ve got to be able to be real and that means sharing your strengths, sharing your journey, the ups and downs in the journey, the round the curves, the moments where you stopped on the road, and someone had to come and pick you up. I truly believe in the call to sharing all in an effort to help other women and to help others who are looking towards even going further than where I have been in the past. So, to whom much is given, much is required – that’s really where I am and that’s what I live by. And that does not mean that I’m putting undue responsibility upon myself because I don’t believe that you can do everything; there’s got to be some balance. But I also recognize that along my journey, other people have helped me. So, it’s my responsibility to do the same for others, come alongside others to help them in their journey, and I hope that’s what I’ve done in my life’s journey.
And I’m really looking forward in this new role to even expanding that influence and that impact and showing other women, younger in their career, how they can navigate, how they can reinvent themselves. I came from a finance background and now I’m in HR talent management DE&I and there’s so many other areas of myself still yet to explore. But I’m also opened to taking that journey of exploration and I would just encourage others to do the same, and it starts with that. And surrounding yourself with good people like you and with mentors that are able to call out the greatness that’s within you.
Taren: That’s awesome. There’s something that the HBA often says within the HBA – “Send the elevator back down for that next generation and help lift them to greater heights.” So certainly, you have been doing that and I love that you touched on this because my next question is so often women wait to tick off every box on the sheet before they go for that next role. But I believe if you can tick off all those boxes, you’re ready for the next role after that. So, what advice do you give to women to help prepare them for those stretch roles? And some of it takes confidence and you have to take a leap of faith. So, what are some advice you can provide to women?
Nikki: Yeah. And you know what Taren, the confidence may not be there all the way like a hundred percent. You’re still going to doubt yourself in some instances, but it’s that taking that leap, whether you feel that fluttering in your chest, knowing that it’s your time to shift either out of a particular role or into something that really will stretch you. You never know until you take that step. So, I definitely would implore someone who’s listening to this podcast and you’re at that moment and this is the time for you to really evaluate who you are and who you want to be; what are your skill sets; what are the things that bring you joy. When I talk to folks, I always like to share with them, first, explore what’s inside of you. What are the things that you know that you do well? What are the things that you want to be able to do? And again, in reference to stretching, there are things and capabilities that we may have that we don’t even know, that we may need to have someone else almost do like an excavation to really pull it out of us. But until you start that first process of really doing a self-assessment and then saying what are your passion areas and seeing where you can align your skill sets, your experiences, your passion, and then finding the right opportunity whether it’s an organization, whether it’s a volunteer opportunity – all of those when you really get that convergence of the circles, the right opportunity, the right time, your passions and your skill sets, that’s when you know you found magic.
But it all starts with that leap of faith and you ensuring that you are the one, you have to be a fire starter for yourself. Others can come alongside and add to that fire and amplify it, but as women we have got to take the reins and say, “You know what, I’m ready to really start out on a new journey.” I’ve done that several times over my career at this point and there were sometimes where I got burned by my own fire, but at the same time I learned lessons. The losses really, I did not see losses, I saw lessons; and I chose to see it like that because if I looked at it as a loss, I would’ve stopped and just given up.
Taren: I love that. “I didn’t see losses, I saw lessons,” that’s a great sound bite because I think it is so true. We talked about looking in the past and we tend to beat ourselves up for those missteps or what have you, but they’re done so you move on and look to the future and take those lessons as lessons and not losses. That’s excellent advice, Nikki. Being in talent management takes a lot of different skill sets. What are some of your keys to success in terms of mentoring others and bringing other folks along because it takes a lot of effort, but it takes a delicate balance too.
Nikki: Yeah, it’s effort. Again, I was able to dig deep and find out that that is a passion area for me in terms of people and all facets of the people spectrum because people are at the core of the businesses that we operate in. So, you’ve got to have a love for people and also understand what it takes to ensure what those people need to thrive in a workplace. So, from a talent management perspective, again the whole life cycle of recruiting and attracting new talent. In interviews, I am always on the hunt and looking for new talent for our organization and for future potential. We may not necessarily have a role right now that’s open, but as I’m interviewing and talking to people, I’m listening for those things that could be transferable skills or really valuable for the organization in the future; looking at our strategy, our three-year strategy that we have now that the board just refreshed and looking at what skill sets do we need that we don’t currently have.
But a lot of what I also start out with is, and I’m going back to this C word, the culture word, in the interviews, as I’m listening to people share their experiences and their skill sets, I’m also sharing back with them, this is our culture as a staff. So, what I described earlier is we took a journey and documenting our culture. I want folks to know coming in, this is the type of organization that you’re walking into so that allows them, there’s no surprises. So, these are the things that we’re looking for from a values perspective because what I also find is people can be excellent at what they do. Their skillsets are phenomenal, great experience, but if their values don’t align with the organization somewhere along the line, there’s going to be a challenge and probably a parting of the ways.
So, from a talent management perspective, I’ve learned to infuse that into our interviewing process. So that way when the person comes in the door, they see fully what they’re getting into. We are transparent about our expectations, and it sets the stage for a better working relationship. Now does that work at a hundred percent of the time? Absolutely not. Because there’s some things that you can’t weed out in that interviewing process. But you do the best that you can to set your new people up for success coming in the door and then create the inclusive environment where they can flourish, where they do see opportunities, and particularly for us because we are a virtual staff, we have to work really hard at creating those critical relationships, working relationships, trust, building trust.
So, keys to success for me is really just being very transparent upfront about your culture, what you’re expecting as an employer, but then also listening to the people that you have and that you’re trying to attract and ensure that you’re really able to meet the bill of goods that they’re putting forward as well.
Taren: Fantastic tips there. I think those apply across every job whether you are in a talent management position or if you’re hiring somebody to come on board. I think that’s really important, and I love that, infusing the culture into that interview. That’s really a key step. Nikki, you noted you’ve been at the HBA now for 13 years. Can you name a few of the significant advances the association has made towards its mission and goals over that time? Is there anything that stands out particularly for you?
Nikki: Wow. Again, I’m using wow. The HBA again has been in existence for 45 years and I just go back to thinking about the founders and what they were thinking when they were gathering in those C-suites and looking around and saying, “There’s not many of us here, we’ve got to do something about this.” So, they started out really trying to gather women and they were being told at that time that they didn’t have what it took to be able to ascend to the C-suite. So those women really gathered and said, “We are going to, as you mentioned before, send the elevator back down. Let’s put together some resources. Let’s put together some programs for women to be able to grow in their professional lives.” So, I look back all the way back there; I was not here, but I am a beneficiary of what those women were really envisioning back then.
So, for me, I’ve only been here since 2009, again coming in as a staff member. And at that time, wow, I remember our budget was at one number and we were envisioning future growth, but it was a very small staff. The CEO, Laurie Cooke… we were just all very tight knit, but we all had such great passion to advance women and to see an impact in women’s lives and in the companies where these women work. So, for me, I’ve seen our budget literally explode to be able to do some of the things which would be to hire additional staff to support our growing membership. Our membership is over 13,000 members now. When I started, it may have been 6,000. So, the membership has doubled, our reach and expanse has doubled. We are now truly global and having over eight regions all over the world. We’ve got 180 corporate partners. When I started, I think we were barely at the breaking number of a hundred. So, we’ve been able to influence our growth from a global lens.
And now we’re moving into a space where now we are going to be having operating boards, one for North America, one for Europe. So, we are expanding. We are growing in terms of influence. We’re growing in terms of impact. I have seen women walk into this organization not even knowing who HBA was. Some people were thinking when you say HBA, they’re thinking Home Builders Association – no, this is the Healthcare Businesswomen’s Association. And HBA’s voice, the credibility of the HBA’s voice, has grown in impact and significance now such that others are coming to HBA. What does HBA think on critical women’s issues where HBA is the standard now for women’s equality and women’s equity issues in the healthcare space. Everyone wants to know what HBA thinks, what is HBA going to do, and we are proudly standing up and owning our role in being an influencer and a change maker, a united force for change.
So, I’ve seen the influence and the impact grow in this organization. It has personally helped me to grow in my career and I’m forever grateful for the opportunities that have been afforded to me. And now I have the opportunity to pay it forward for other women and just so grateful for the volunteers such as yourself. There are so many volunteers that are truly dedicated to the mission of HBA and I believe there’s so much greater influence and impact to come.
Taren: It’s exciting. It really truly is so gratifying to see how far the association has come in just a short amount of time, if you think about it. And as you said growing that sphere of influence and impact and becoming a standard bearer is really just very impressive. So, congratulations to you as well as the rest of the staff and, as you said, to all the volunteers who have helped push the initiatives forward. It’s truly inspiring. It’s fantastic.
Nikki: Yeah. Our members and volunteers are the core of who we are as an association. We can’t do anything without our members and volunteers, our strategic board of directors, and our staff. It’s a group effort.
Taren: It definitely is a group effort. All those cogs have to work together too, and it doesn’t happen by accident. There’s a lot that goes into making sure there’s harmony across the board, so again that’s staff driven and well done. I am so sad that our time is running out so I’m going to end our WoW podcast with the question that I always end our WoW podcast for. You touched on this a little bit earlier, but can you identify that WoW moment that either change the trajectory of your career or that has left a lasting impression on you. Is there a moment you can identify?
Nikki: I do have several moments, but one for me definitely came in 2017 as I was evaluating what I had been doing, what my skill sets were, how I had been supporting the organization and the finance world. But then also personally there were some personal challenges, health challenges, all of that together, and it made me really sit and think, “Nikki, who are you? What do you want to be? Where do you want to go?”. And it wasn’t until I took that pause and really did a self-assessment and along with some great mentors really helping me through the process to identify and not to stop and give up, that’s a critical piece. So, for me it was a WoW moment because I could have. I could have stopped and could have given up, but I pivoted, shifted, and was able to reinvent myself.
So now for the last five years, I’ve been on an amazing journey of growth and inspiration, and I totally believe that there’s more to come. But that left the lasting impression upon me because I realized that it’s not so much in how much you’ve accomplished in one certain area, it’s how you respond to those moments when you’re faced with across wind. So many things can happen, but it’s how you respond to it and how you choose to get up and keep moving forward. So, I’m glad I made the choice to keep moving forward. I’m glad from my village that helped encourage me to keep moving along the path. And here I am today, ready to keep going and soaring higher.
Taren: Beautifully said. And, again, congratulations to you personally for all that you have accomplished and to the association who is a beneficiary of so many of your great skills and talents. Thanks so much for being part of our WoW podcast program. This has been a great conversation, so many great gems in there. And I’ll put a plug in shamelessly “The HBA has changed my life” so I encourage everybody to become a member. There’s no reason that if you’re a woman in the healthcare industry, they should be joining this association. So, there’s my plug.
Nikki: I love that plug. We will take all those plugs. And go visit us at www.hbanet.org. Okay, now that really was a shameless plug.
Taren: That was shameless, but we’ll take that too. Nikki, thank you so much for being part of the program.
Nikki: Thank you so much, Taren. This was awesome and all the best to you. And thank you so much for Industry Dive for this opportunity. And thank you for your service to HBA.
Thanks for listening to this episode of WoW, the Woman of the Week podcast. For more WoW episodes, visit pharmaVOICE.com.