Recruitment and Mentoring Practices Help Juniper Cultivate Strong Women in Leadership Roles (Part 1 of 5)

women in leadership part 1

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Author Andy Smith | Juniper Women in Leadership Series: Part One of Five

While they’ve have made great strides in the workplace over the past few decades, the number of women in corporate America with “President,” “CEO,” “COO,” “CFO,” “SVP” and other prestigious acronyms after their names remains comparatively small, even in fields like senior living where the majority of employees and residents are women.

In Fortune’s 500 List from 2018, 24 of 500 CEOs were women, just 4.8%!

Broadening the scope a bit, the numbers only get slightly better. According to consulting firm Weber Schandwick’s Gender Forward Pioneer Index, only 10.9% of senior executives are women, with 37% of companies having all-male leadership teams and 21% with just one woman. And, among the Fortune 500, a dozen firms have no gender diversity on their boards of directors, despite growing pressure to diversify.

The situation in senior living is only slightly better. According to a recent report from Argentum, of the 115 largest senior living providers, 17.5% are helmed by a female CEO.

Juniper is proud to be an exception to these trends. And these statistics are one reason we’ve developed a series of articles celebrating the role of women at Juniper Communities, one of America’s very few for-profits where women make up the majority of the C-Suite, as well as half of our board of directors.

In 2019, our approach to gender equality shouldn’t be unique, but (sadly) it still is.

Outside Looking In (with admiration) Consultant Judith Katz, who has worked with Juniper’s leadership for several years, gives the lion’s (or lioness’) share of credit for the firm’s diversity to CEO Lynne Katzmann, who founded the firm in 1988. Katzmann recently received the first McKnight’s Women of Distinction Lifetime Achievement Award, which honored Lynne and the culture she’s created at Juniper, (again) the only company in its category founded and led by a woman

Katz believes Juniper’s strength stems from its founder’s vision and approach to leadership, one that values problem-solving and hard work, while appreciating the importance of work/life balance, particularly in the lives of women. “The industry is largely women in terms of caregivers. What Lynne has done is have an executive team that mirrors the workforce. She’s been very conscientious about that. And she’s clearly empowered her team,” says Katz.

Explaining her recruiting process, Pappas says, “I look for people who are excited to make a difference, who aren’t nervous about being in a place with a lot of ambiguity and grey areas. In behavioral mental health (her area of focus), there’s no room for (exclusively) linear thinkers.”

“She’s also dealt with being a single parent. So she has a deep understanding of work/life balance,” Katz adds. “Having leaders who are savvy to those things is huge and you don’t have it in other organizations. In this industry, people often skip from job to job. She’s worked hard to build stability. Retention at Juniper is much higher. That’s a differentiator.”

Nurturing the Next Generation Judith Katz believes another of Juniper’s strengths lies in identifying talent and fostering these prospects through the ranks. “So nurturing the next generation is especially important. Juniper’s leadership is thinking about who is in the pipeline and then actively providing opportunities to accelerate their advancement. This includes getting younger people, including women, involved with important projects.”

She adds, “One of the things they’ve worked so hard on is culture. It’s not just what we do for our customers, but the people who work there. People feel cared about, like they matter. And they’re invested because they get treated with more respect.”

Historic Perspective A Juniper board member for 15 years, Mary Radtke Klein, spent several decades working in various aspects of senior living, including time in the 1980s with the first developer of assisted living communities on the west coast.

She brings a background in operations training and advocacy to her role on the board, though she emphasizes that a key to Juniper’s success is its leadership’s ability to balance dollar-sign issues with compassion.

“This board has a good balance of men and women, but I think more than anything else its strength is that there is a good balance of emotional intelligence and financial expertise,” Radke stresses. She adds that years ago senior living boards were mostly men, men who were focused on feasibility/financing/construction costs and logistics. Women on boards and in leadership positions were focused on nursing, resident services, and operations.

“When I think about Lynne’s board I see a really nice balance of financial expertise and emotional intelligence about these kind of comprehensive services that provide an infrastructure of residents’ whole lives. I think it’s that sort of thing about Juniper that’s been impressive.”

A Balance of Steel & Compassion Looking at Juniper from a broader perspective, Radtke Klein sees it as that rare corporation that actually values and follows the altruistic elements of its mission statement, a commitment that leads to innovation, quality care and a nurturing working environment for team members who reflect Juniper’s values.

“This may sound a bit Pollyanna. In a tough area like healthcare, it’s difficult to provide a good product, good services and still include enough financial flexibility so that there is a respectable profit,” she says.

“I think the more companies can actually implement work towards fulfilling their mission statements as they do their financial imperatives, the better it will be for the overall quality of long-term care.”

“This isn’t easy, but Juniper does it.”

Why Promote More Women? In a recent blog post written before receiving her award, Katzmann clearly stated her belief that more women should rise to leadership positions in corporate America, but especially in senior living. “74% of the people who live in senior housing communities nationwide are women. And, according to the Advisory Board Company, 80% of our team members, the people who make our communities function, are women. But at the top, there are mostly men. In fact, Modern Healthcare’s respected list of the industry’s most influential people named 79 men out of the 100! So, the ratios are inverted when it comes to power and recognition,” she writes.

Though she’s encouraged by the rise of women at a number of Real Estate Investment Trusts, but, “given we are half of the population and general workforce, and our industry consumer and workforce is so heavily gender skewed, I am dismayed that I am still one of few.”

Our next piece will focus on inclusive leadership which we believe makes Juniper Communities a great place to work, for women and all of our team members.

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