In 2017, a group of female UnitedHealthcare employees in Missouri were inspired by then-CEO Kathryn Sullivan to expand their network of women in order to find ways to support and promote each other. A small cadre of female leaders in the “Show Me” state met regularly to champion this cause.
“Our committee of five met on a regular basis for approximately 18 months,” said Gloria Sargent, vice president, sales and account management key accounts for E&I of Missouri. “We hosted meetings, visited after working hours, reached out to other markets and researched other Diversity and Inclusion events.”
After thoughtful consideration, the group elected to host an offsite luncheon in St. Louis in August for 100 female UnitedHealth Group employees, giving them the opportunity to hear directly from influential women and learn from their vast experiences.
The event was emceed by local radio personality Trish Gazell and featured a panel of three leaders, who shared insights about their professional journeys and personal stories.
Dr. Margaret-Mary Wilson, the chief medical officer from UnitedHealth Group’s global business, joined Jamie Bruce, the CEO of UnitedHealthcare’s Community & State Plan of Missouri and Yvonne M. Buhlinger, the vice president of development and community relations for Affinia Healthcare. Together, they encouraged the audience to step outside of their comfort zone, take risks and feel confident in expressing their thoughts and opinions.
“We perform best when we are able to bring our whole self to work and when we don’t feel constrained by rigid, stereotypical constraints that may be driven by unconscious bias in the workplace,” Dr. Wilson said. “Being vulnerable allows me to lead by example and drive learnings with my team and colleagues, not only around my successes and perceived strengths, but also related to my failures and opportunities. This kind of vulnerability makes others feel comfortable sharing their stories and experiences, which allows us to leverage the diversity of our experiences and harness the power of inclusion.”
Following the panelists’ remarks, each table spent time discussing their experiences with their table leaders and sharing with the larger group.
“The biggest impact for me was realizing that even though we all came from different backgrounds and experiences, we are all on a similar journey as women,” said Angela Soppe, an E&I client services analyst. “Opportunities like this luncheon are important to our success as women, because we can learn powerful life-changing ideas from other successful women leaders, which inspire us to move in new directions and support each other in that process.”