Recently, Juniper Founder Lynne Katzmann, Ph.D., received the inaugural McKnight’s Women of Distinction Lifetime Achievement Award, a tremendous honor for both Lynne and the culture she’s created at Juniper, which remains the only company in its category founded and led by a woman.
To reflect on this honor, and Juniper’s unique position in the industry, we decided to celebrate Juniper Communities’ large community of women in leadership positions, in the C-Suite, on its highly active board, and among the next generation of leadership with a series of articles about our people and different aspects of our culture that help women thrive at Juniper.
This, the first in a series of articles which will run in our newsletter and on our website, is titled “Inclusive Leadership Starts at the Top” and focuses on the unique culture Lynne has helped to develop over the past three decades.
FLIPPING THE SCRIPT… Katzmann believes her company’s pro-woman culture is natural in a sector where women make up the majority of residents, where family members (usually daughters and daughters-in-law) make the bulk of care decisions and where women comprise the majority of caregivers across the board. Yet, even in 2019, we have to emphasize that Juniper remains the only woman-founded, owned and led company among the top 40 national assisted living companies.
The numbers prove the point—Juniper walks its talk when it comes to recruiting and promoting women. At the Executive Level, five out of seven members of Juniper’s Corporate Leadership Team are women. This is a break from tradition in an industry where women make up the bulk of the lower levels of the hierarchy, but seldom find themselves in the corner office, according to Cindy Longfellow, Vice President, Business Development, Sales and Marketing.
“We’re definitely the exception in that we have a large number of women at the highest level, and just below that in mid-level positions, including on the tech, financial, clinical and dining support sides of our operations,” Longfellow notes.
“I think there’s definitely a deliberateness about that, but also senior living is a really good fit for women leaders. We have this pool of incredible women who have been fortunate enough to promote up. Typically, in senior living, women make up most of your line staff, but men dominate in corporate leadership.”
“At Juniper, we’ve flipped that on its head.”
WALKING THE TALK For more than 30 years, Katzmann has led Juniper, a public company, by prioritizing doing well by doing good. Profits matter (she has investors, after all), but so does providing high-quality care and innovative services for her residents. It’s a “walking the talk” mindset that attracts professionals with a similar mindset, many of whom happen to be women.
And for women who want to excel, Katzmann stresses the importance of standing out, not blending in. “I’m little and I have short hair. I could easily have blended into the background if not for my big mouth,” she laughs. “As a woman I’ve never been afraid to be innovative and I send that message to my team.”
Katzmann recalls a seminal moment from early in her career. “In 1988, I learned a powerful lesson. We went to the Bank of Boston to give a presentation to secure funding (to launch Juniper),” she recalls. “They (the lenders) were not enthusiastic and at the end of the presentation a woman on their staff approached me and asked, ‘Why are you doing this?’”
“I figured, ‘I’m not going to get the money anyway,’ so I gave her an honest answer,” Katzmann recalls. “I told her that I wanted my company to be a model for public policy in senior living and to show that operations can improve lives for seniors.”
She added, “I realized afterward that my unfiltered message had connected with her and that made such a long-lasting impression on me. I realized that talking about ‘mission’ in a for-profit world might not resonate with everyone, but that sharing our mission would be the best way to connect with the people we wanted to connect with, those with similar values.”
Katzmann has continued to follow this path, never trying to appeal to everyone, but focusing on people who share her values—from selecting Juniper’s board to hiring her team members.
“While our healthcare mission can appeal to anyone, it is one of nurturing, and women are known as nurturers. And that appeals to a lot of women and optimizes what many women bring to the table,” she says.