A Lean look at International Women's Day 2019



Ian Hawkins
03/08/2019

Connie Flores, Lean Sensei

To commemorate International Women's Day 2019, PEX Editor Ian Hawkins caught up with one of the speakers from OPEX Week 2019 to talk about diversity, why 2018 was a momentous year for women - and what lies ahead in 2019.

Ian Hawkins:

Connie Flores, as well as being a Lean Sensei at Hartford Healthcare, today you're a professional female for the purposes of International Women's Day. And as we live in a world where things aren’t as balanced or fair as they could be, what do you think it's going to take to make International Women's Day, less significant? By that I mean, when will we find ourselves in a position where we no longer need to have it?

Connie Flores:                  

That's an interesting take on that idea.  I work in healthcare and in our share, the majority of women are caretakers. Meaning nurses, meaning providers. So as one grows in their career, they now want to move on to administration. So now they want to be a nurse manager or a nurse director and then a vice-president and executive. The role model that I obtained in my career in healthcare, has been the increase of the number of women who have an opportunity in administration of the organization. They're a good role model for myself and a there's so many opportunities. So, International Women's Day is one of the other aspects of our culture that's important, and really, that the future, there's really no limit to what we can do and what we can learn and grow. And I think it's changing the world.

IH:                                         

Do you think the pipeline for getting more women into those positions, has improved?

CF:                                         

I think in certain initiatives it absolutely has. Thinking about roles perhaps in the manufacturing world, where I have some colleagues, a couple of strong leaders we talk about that the changes that are happening in the world of technology. My one particular friend, she is the only one in her position. She said it's predominantly male, but then I reflect upon my role where it's predominantly female and I think there's some opportunities in certain environments, for example, healthcare. It depends on the industry. I think there are some differences.

IH:                                         

2018 was called the year of the woman in the US because of the number of women that were elected to Congress… but for me that was overshadowed by the ‘me too’ movement, and people not being taken seriously. But the question is, if 2018 was the year of the woman, what happens next? What's 2019? Is it going to be an equally good story for women do you think, in the coming months?

CF:                                         

Absolutely. From what I'm seeing, in many types of scenarios, there's a lot of different, new, and up and coming women. But then as time goes on, nothing is stagnant. It continually advances and, new opportunities open up that we wouldn't have seen in 2018. I think as the future goes on, because 2018 started, the doors are open. Anything is possible. And I think it’s to do with technology. Remember the large phone in the 80's that was connected to a battery pack? That opened the door to where we are now and I can talk, FaceTime, and shop at the same time with you. So, it's pretty amazing how when a door opens up so much can happen.

IH:                                         

And do you think that technology really is one of the ways that equality is going to come about?

CF:                                         

Absolutely. Because technology, there's really, you don't see a gender. For example, Amazon shopping, it's really from the neutral perspective, the buyer’s perspective, the experience they're getting. They don't know behind the scenes, is it female oriented or male oriented. It's just very unbiased when it comes to gender. I think in terms of the workforce in technology, you know, whether it's the computer science majors or it's coding, whatever, what have you, when technology comes together, those barriers are all coming down. It's the age group, where if you have that interest I think it's just very much open minded right now.

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IH:                                         

I think quite a lot of work has been done to get women into STEM subjects, more than before. We met at OPEX Week, Orlando, would you say you do a lot speaking?

CF:                                         

I think maybe twice a year I get to go to international conferences.

IH:

I’m surprised you say so few because you’re a very good speaker. The question is, do you think the number of women that speak at these conferences is changing? Because I know it's something a lot of people are focused on is getting more women onto the stage.

CF:                                         

Absolutely. I think in Orlando the topics that came up with the panels, even the breakout groups, the workshops, there was so much dialogue from perspectives of just how is our world changing and what's the work force like, what is it going to be and what’s it like right now. And a lot of conversation centred on the signature room, of what the male role is and the women's role is. There was a lot more usage of when people describe their own stories, in which, ‘Oh, my director, my boss, my VP.’ It was actually ‘her’ a lot more, which is exciting.

IH:

That's heartening. I have been events for about 15 years, or getting on for that. In all that time, people have been talking about having to establish more women on the stage and getting women's voices out there. It is good to know that it is coming through. Also, quite a lot of these events are organized and run by women. It's not for lack of trying, I think. What would your advice be to other women that are thinking about speaking at a conference?

CF:                                         

I think one that I have seen has changed over time, whether it be through social media or it be through television, it's about the confidence of women. Even through entertainment, the strong women the women that are at the top of the charts right now. I think my advice is finding that area where their strengths are and that brings up the confidence level. I believe that when you feel that you have the skill and you have the knowledge and you want to help. Hone in on what that is for your particular self. Go out and be able to speak to it and share with it. I think also, the younger generation, you had mentioned them - like my daughter. At a younger age, you don't know what your limits are. That's really something put on by society. Go through the program, go through the education or you can go through your career, and you don't feel like there is a limitation on you, that is where I think it changes for women. In Orlando, there was such a good representation both of men and women, and diversity as well.

IH:

Being a woman shouldn’t be a diversity issue, and yet it still sort-of is, isn’t it?

CF:

Yeah. I think also being a diverse woman, there have been two contacts. One, being from a different culture, a different country. Two, is what you grew up with, it's different when you did not grow up in the American cultures. You grew up in a different culture. Then you are coming as a woman too, so that has an impact on where you think you can do great work, or does it help that you are different, or does it have an impact of second guessing yourself sometimes.

IH:

Just to bring it back to where we started. Do you think that, say when your daughter is your age, do you think International Women's Day will be a bit of an anachronism? Do you think it will still be around in 25, 30 years?

CF:   

Oh gosh no. I really think, I will be honest with you, what came to my mind is the diversity of women too. Where I have grown up it’s not very diverse at all, not many ethnic groups and I think, since I am on in my career now, maybe I say in 20 to 30 years, of just seeing different areas of positive improvement, mainly the different types of experiences have blossomed. I think, and that's because women continue to see all the great advantage, to build a momentum. I really think there is a momentum going on at this point.

                                                Even most recently, at the last Presidential Election, that was a milestone. Those are the first candidates, for women to be a part of that. I really think, right now, we are in the actual midst of change in which the Women's International Day will continue to stay with us, and I think it's even going to evolve even more.

IH:

It's interesting, I think the debate has moved on, because people are now saying Kamala Harris, is she going to be a good candidate, rather than saying ‘could a woman be a good President?’ It is a change in culture.

CF:

I know you are interviewing me, from your prospective, do you feel that from as we move on in the next five to 10 years, there are certain pockets that women will definitely have more representation?

IH:

I think I say that people are really trying to push. I’ve been in the events business one way or another for 15 years, and it was always the thing that you tried to make sure that there was female. I never used to feel that embarrassed about phoning up and saying, ‘I wonder if you can do this because we need a woman on the panel.’ Now I feel, if I say, ‘we need a woman on the panel’ it suggests that there is something wrong my approach because there are a lot of women out there.  

CF:

We talked a little bit about culture. I think, and maybe this could have been 10 or 15 years ago, when we saw the one or two women rise up and be a part of executive level, the reaction would be different back then.

Now I have noticed that there's an even bigger shift of women, to women, to continue to climb the career ladder. What can we do to help our fellow women? Just aspire and be better.

Even the comradery, and people talk about certain things, I think I have changed to over the last couple years. It used to be, ‘I want to do this, but should I tell anyone? Will I be judged?’ Now it is, ‘Hey, I want to do it can you help me?’ It's kind of opened up even more of a connection between friends, too and colleagues.

 

Connie Flores is a Lean Sensei, Hartford HealthCare. 

To get a flavour of OPEX Week Orlando 2019 here are the films Ian made for Day One and Day Two

 

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