On January 13, HC3 launched its new “The Role of Women in Health care” series by hosting a panel discussion on Women Revolutionizing Healthcare Innovation. On the heels of JP Morgan's Annual Conference, women in health care innovation discussed how they are advancing innovative opportunities across the health care ecosystem.
Moderator: Laurie McGraw, Senior Vice President, American Medical Association and Host, Inspiring Women With Laurie McGraw Podcast
Featured Panelists: Adimika Arthur, Founding Executive Director, HealthTech 4 Medicaid Alyssa Jaffee, Partner, 7Wire Ventures Missy Krasner, Venture Chair, Redesign Health Kristen Valdes, CEO and Founder, b.Well Connected Health
Watch the Recap | Link to Video
Breakthrough moments as leaders
Adimika Arthur: Began her career as epidemiologist and worked for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and some other local public departments. She was on a pathway to leading the Alimeda County Department of Public Health in California, but the incumbent decided not to retire. She joked that many Gen-Xers like herself unfortunately had to wait for someone to leave or die in order to move up. After about a year, the person was still not retiring so they had to give her something else to work on. Thus, she began working on the development of the 1115 waiver. The opportunity was a pivotal moment for her because California became the first state to expand Medicaid. Thus, the state received ample funding and Adimika’s work shifted to hospital administration.
Missy Krasner: Early on Missy felt that there was a difference between having a job and having a career. Having been involved in business, government, and health care, she found that she had a unique perspective that made people want to work with her. Realizing this influence became her pivotal point; she began serving in the government in IT and later co-founded an enterprise software service for hospitals.
Alyssa Jaffee: Alyssa worked as an operator for the Advisory Board Company. She had a great experience there, which continues to shape a lot of her thinking in corporate market strategies. It was not until she returned to business school that she understood that there’s a much bigger world out there. Although she got a lot of push back, sometimes even from mentors, venture capital was her passion, and she was determined to push her way through in the industry. Given her personal experience, she would encourage women today to think about career paths that may seem atypical.
Kristen Valdes: Kristen said she, “fell up” in her career almost accidentally. She began her career in financial services, and the department she began working in reported directly to top executives. She ended up getting the unique opportunity to build a health plan from the ground up after explaining a claim reporting error to a room full of men in her department, and the CEO chose her to build the plan with him on the spot. She had to build various different teams and it inevitably it was successful.
However, when Kristen’s daughter got sick, she realized the people on her side of the industry building these plans were not listening to the consumer side. She decided to take a year to see if she could build something for the consumer side, and now seven years into it she’s running b.Well Connected.
On the heels of JP Morgan, where are the opportunities for women?
Missy Krasner: It is an unprecedented time in company creation and funding, and there’s a concentrated effort in the M&A landscape. What do this mean for women? There is so much more openness to first-time founders and former founders wanting to pursue something more niche. There is an ethos now for people who normally had a hard time taking on risk to be perceived as being capable of doing a lot more. Two companies that Redesign is currently working with have first time CEOs who are female. If you are looking at being an executive leader or starting a digital health company as a first-time founder, now is the time. The risk profile has gone down. There is an environment now to translate your experiences and insights as a family care provider and manager into your everyday work.
Adimika Arthur: Adimika noted that JP Morgan has not been her favorite conference to attend historically, because it can be difficult as a woman and a person of color. This year was the first time Medicaid was featured at JP Morgan. Women win because we know how to create relationships with others. Underrepresented founders have had positive momentum, but deep in the ecosystem we are not seeing the level of support necessary.
Kristen Valdes: Kristen said she did not feel support as a first-time founder or female executive. Women are typically asked to defend 100 percent downside risk, alternatively for men there is a greater focus on the upside possibilities. There is still a lot of bias in the fundraising space. She gets asked a lot about what her husband does – is he offended by her work? Does he support her? Men are simply not asked these things. Her advice for women entrepreneurs: 1) Find a female who went before you and 2) get a real understanding of where biases exist. Kristen inevitably found customers who were their investors that could stand behind the data and verify that it worked as they went into larger rounds of funding.
Alyssa Jaffee: Historically, venture funding cycles haven’t been conducive to what it means to really build a transformative health care plan. Now, we’re starting to see larger financing rounds. Pregnancy is not the only women’s health issue. It is fertility, post-partum, mental health, particular issues for teens and college students, and the list goes on. Many companies are forming to address these growing needs. To start a company, you need to pick a health care problem, figure out why it matters to you, and really know what you’re trying to solve.
Missy Krasner: It’s a buyer’s market. There’s so much innovation and investors want to write checks. Anytime I’m working with a CEO or coaching someone, I always talk to people—regardless of their gender—about what their risk tolerance is right now and what is their risk profile. You have to bring your whole integrated self to the table.
Kristen Valdes: When I started, I was an introvert. I did not have a network; I did not have confidence to reach out to someone. But your network is everywhere, and I wish someone would have told me that before. All the people you’ve ever met can help connect you. Reaching out on LinkedIn, even to people who may not currently be interested in joining the company now, can go a long way and lead to massive growth.
Alyssa Jaffee: There are no such thing as strangers. Think about the people you’ve met and the interactions you’ve had. Invest in the longevity of your relationships. There are people you’ve met at school, events, etc. that will come back around in the most incredible ways, but it has to feel organic to you. There are a lot of ways to build a network, including creating a personal CRM (in excel!), and your leadership brand. Be yourself. Zoom is allowing us to seize the opportunity to be a real person.
Adimika Arthur: When it comes to networking, it’s important to never lose sight of your “why.” When I visit cities, I have started to volunteer and invite people to come with me instead of meeting people for coffee/drinks. Getting to know people by working with them in this way is more effective and telling. This has been transformational for HT4M. The intentionality of really wanting to get to know somebody in a way that’s not transactional is really important.
Missy Krasner: I also set aside three or four half-hour slots a week to network and mentor. Generally, it’s for people that are newer in my network. That kind of velocity that aggregates week after week allows your network to grow. The one area that I think women founders often second-guess themselves in is negotiation. Coming in strong and confident may come off in the wrong way because you’re a woman, in a way that it doesn’t for men.
Adimika Arthur: Negotiating is challenging, especially challenging for women of color because we live in a society where people judge you before you even walk through the door. Often, I have to read the room to figure out whether I can really show up as myself. I use my network to help me negotiate better. I have people in my network vouch for me. Having some of that confirmation bias shifted is very important when negotiating.
Kristen Valdes: Women and men negotiate differently. One of the best things you can do is to do your homework: Know your value and what you’re up against to draw comparisons. I like to negotiate based on data and facts because it’s hard for someone to disagree with that. To get away from bias, preparation is everything.
Best Advice for Women Like You
Adimika Arthur: Continue to encourage and support other women.
Alyssa Jaffee: Do something that you love and that you care about, because it becomes all-consuming, and it’s hard to succeed when you don’t love what you do.
Kristen Valdes: Be unapologetic about your passion, and make sure that you’re passionate about what you’re doing because it really shows when you’re not.
Missy Krasner: It took me years to feel like I wasn’t divided between home and work. When you get to the point of loving what you do, you integrate your home life with your work.