Q&A Women in Leadership at Unidine 3-15

Q&A: Women in Leadership at Unidine

Celebrating women in leadership represents recognizing and safeguarding values like diversity of thought, equality, and equity. Globally, only 29% of women serve in senior management roles, yet they make up almost half of the workforce. Gender inclusivity, in tandem with larger diversity, equality, and inclusion initiatives will act to drive better business outcomes. Hear from women in leadership at Unidine in our Q&A session.

Changing the Narrative

Having strong female representation across our organization from the executive level to the management level serves as another opportunity to change the narrative around women in business. Diversity of thought gives way to greater innovation and increased collaboration.

As a part of Unidine’s larger diversity and equity initiatives, we aimed to initiate a dialogue among the accomplished women leaders in our organization and voice our commitment towards building greater gender inclusivity. Read along to hear from some of the incredible women who are among our leadership and management.

What are some challenges you’ve faced as a female in your career?

“An early challenge I had was believing that I didn’t know enough to have a voice in the conversation. I didn’t contribute anything during the first leadership meeting I sat in after I’d recently been promoted to a regional marketing role. My Regional Vice President pulled me aside mid-day and asked me why I hadn’t said anything during the morning’s conversation. I shared that I was watching and listening to those who were more experienced until I felt I had something worthy of contributing. He said, “Kristin, I won’t ever put you in a room where I don’t expect that you have something to bring to the conversation. I expect you to contribute every time.” I really took that advice to heart and quickly overcame my hesitation to have ‘the one right answer’ and, since then, have never stopped speaking up and contributing. I learned that great teams take partially formed ideas from a collection of viewpoints and weave them together to create success.”
– Kristin Schneider, Vice President of Client Excellence

“I was promoted to VP Human Resources for a public company when I was in my early 30’s, so being taken seriously when my new peer group were men in their 50’s was a challenge! Throughout my career as a senior leader, I have often been one of the youngest on the team and the only female, which made it difficult. Not being compensated equal to my peer group has sometimes been an issue so I learned to know my value and speak up when I felt it was an issue”.
– Janet DePiero, Chief People Officer

Not being included in the conversation even though I am standing in the room has been a challenge. I’ve overcome this by posing questions to my male counterparts.
– Kathleen Cossaboon, District Manager

Sometimes just being acknowledged; I have been in a number of situations where I have been the only woman in the room and have sometimes felt that my contributions were not as sought out as others. Eventually I overcame it through PREPARATION! In situations like the above, I have found that the key to being heard and valued is to be prepared and have something productive to contribute.
– Stephanie Masiello, Vice President of Legal

Some challenges I have faced is working with an all-male executive leadership team. It has posed questions of true intentions when they bring on their “buddies.” I understand that we as middle management may not always understand all the outlying circumstances, but truly believe in clear, transparent communication whenever possible. I’ve overcome this by continuing to own my own path and career. If I have wanted to take the next step, I advocate for what I want, work hard to prove that I am the more qualified applicant and own when I have made mistakes. I have stayed humble, work with my teams, promoted when warranted and stayed true to my own path while trying to fulfill the corporate responsibilities at the same time without compromising my own values, morals, integrity or character.
– Andrea Janke, District Manager

What is one piece of advice you wish you had as a young professional?

“Forget the classic ‘career ladder’ approach to building a career and focus instead on a ‘zig-zag path’ to career development. Following emerging and evolving interests and being able to evaluate new and exciting roles has been a key part of my personal and professional path.”
– Kristin Schneider, Vice President of Client Experience

“It is critically important to identify the true motivation of your customer/coworker/team member/boss, once you understand what motivates them, you can effectively learn how to manage your relationship with them and drive outcomes. Understanding and being able to interpret others is many times more important than understanding one’s self.”
– Stephea Sheurer-Melnyk, Vice President of Operations

“Don’t be afraid to use your voice, make your suggestion, think outside the box. Your value to an organization is the unique way(s) that you can contribute to its success, but if you don’t put yourself out there, success will not come looking for you. Prepare, participate, promote [yourself]!”
– Stephanie Masiello, Vice President of Legal

“Over the years, mentorship has been a critical factor to my success. From identifying key leaders who recognized my talents and elevated me to organizational leadership; to friends whose advocacy pushed me to consider alternative options, mentors come in many forms. A mentor is not always your boss. It may be someone you unofficially identify based on their personal leadership style and the competencies you want to emulate. Whether it’s a formal pairing, or someone you admire from afar, I encourage all young professionals to find a mentor to help you steer your course.”
– Victoria Vega, Senior Vice President, Specialty Group

“Be open to all opportunities for training and career advancement… even if it isn’t in your current career path or goal. This is where too many people get stuck in making a transition to the next level in their personal growth. There truly isn’t one set path in achieving success. Also, be open to making mistakes. This can be a difficult hurdle but when you realize you can make a decision and then change your mind at a later time it helps relieve the pressure that mistakes last forever.”
– Ellen Lowre, Senior Director of Nutrition, Wellness, and Sustainability

“Breaking the “boys club” is not easy but I look for common ground so I can banter with the people I work with. I ask a lot of questions and listen when people are speaking, watching body language in the cues of others, so this was helpful as well. I learned to talk sports (thankfully I am a big sports fan), and learned about the personal lives of executive teams I have been on, which provides conversation starters too.”
– Janet DePiero, Chief People Officer

Inclusive hiring practices create a culture of trust and fairness. Organizations need to go beyond announcing their allyship with women. Real change occurs when well-equipped and engaged hiring managers and leaders are held accountable for the advancement of women in the workplace. In doing so, that diversity builds more robust, competitive, and stronger teams. From a global perspective, gender equality helps boost economic growth, as greater female labor force participation and educational attainment leads to high productivity and gross domestic product growth.

About Compass Community Living
Compass Community Living (CCL) is a division of Compass Group, a global culinary and support services leader. With over 15,000 associates nationwide, CCL offers the expertise of three powerhouse brands – Morrison Living, Coreworks and Unidine. CCL provides collaborative partnerships, emphasizing hospitality and service excellence, for over 850 retirement communities and behavioral health facilities across the country. Together, our family of companies deliver an experience known for innovation and passion for service with proven management and strong operational infrastructure.

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