At a senior living conference a few years ago, I remember a disquieting feeling coming over me as I walked into the main lobby.
Part of it was that I had worn a red dress, and I was in a sea of grey and black suits. It was what I imagine a flamingo feels like if they were to land among penguins. But, even more than that, what I realized was evidently different from other conferences was that there were very few women.
While women are predominantly in direct care roles in senior living and long-term care, when it comes to upper level leadership, change has been slow. When McKnight’s Long-Term Care News and McKnight’s Senior Living looked at awards, boards, and other honours for the industry, we saw a gap in how women were recognized. That began the genesis of the McKnight’s Women of Distinction program.
We were lucky that our parent company, Haymarket Media, had successfully launched the “Hall of Femme” programs for our sister magazines, and that we had the backing of an experienced events team.
But our goals were humble. We wanted to honour both the industry’s august leaders, as well as those rising through the ranks. We launched with a call for nominations for the Hall of Honor and Rising Stars, with no mention of a live event.
We hoped word would spread. And, boy, it did!
The influx of nominations exceeded our wildest expectations. We were able to gather an expert panel of judges to review the nominations. Our final lists not only celebrate women, but reflect various facets of elder care services, ranging from senior living and skilled nursing to academia, hospice, and continuing care retirement communities. Our editorial panel also selected Lynne Katzmann as our Lifetime Achievement Award winner.
On a personal level, I teared up reading some of the nominations, given the poignant stories of many of the nominations. There were far more qualified applicants than we had the ability to honour. As the mother of a toddler, I tip my hat to how many of the honourees juggled, or are currently juggling, blockbuster careers, their families, and community commitments. Still, I think they’d be the first to tell you that they’re not superhuman, but rather people who wake up in the morning with a “just do it” attitude.
Finally, PointClickCare deserves credit for its progressive thinking around sponsorship. Once we had their support as the program’s platinum sponsor, our plans for a live event in Chicago began in earnest. Our celebration will take place at evolveHer on Thursday, May 16, and tickets sold out before the end of April. Unlike many other live events for senior care, this event will be fun, feminine, and full of flare. The interest in attending reflects, to me, how supportive our readers can be of their superstar employees.
It’s also a chance for our winners to know they are not alone in their challenges and successes. Given the roster of attendees, I’m eager to listen in on the conversations I expect will be happening that night. And I can’t wait to see who will be nominated in 2020.
Elizabeth Newman is the Senior Editor at McKnight’s Long-Term Care News. Follow her @TigerELN, and follow coverage of Women of Distinction with #McKnightsWOD.