As a proud sponsor of McKnight’s first ever Women of Distinction awards, we were more than happy to learn that the winner of the Lifetime Achievement award was none other than our longtime customer, Lynne Katzmann. In advance of the awards ceremony, we spoke with Lynne to hear about her reaction to the announcement as well as her personal experiences that led her to become one of the most influential (female) leaders in our industry. Here’s what she had to say:
Q: First off, congratulations on your award! We were so excited to hear you had won. For those who don’t know you, could you please share some details about your educational/professional background and your journey to becoming a female leader?
A: Thank you very much. I am a proud graduate of Tufts University and the London School of Economics. It was at LSE that I was fortunate enough to begin my career and study a variety of national health models. I did my doctoral dissertation based on the work I was doing in Germany and I lived in Great Britain and Norway as well. I spent five years learning about health care in a variety of different settings. All of them had a national system, but they are actually quite different, which made it an excellent education in different health models. After that, I moved to Oregon where I drafted a state health plan designed to provide mainstream, commercial insurance to all Oregonians. After that, I worked on a Medicare demonstration project that enrolled Medicare beneficiaries into managed care. That was 1982-83.
From there, I had an incredible opportunity to help run a public company that was invested in long-term care and retirement living. And because of my background in managed care, I also began a program that became the largest preferred provider program for the island of Puerto Rico. At the time, their largest employer was Baxter Travenol, and they were seeking a better option for their employees, so they came to us and we put together a plan for them. That plan still exists to this day and it is now the largest on the island.
I continued to work for MetroCare for a few more years. We doubled the value of the company then sold it. The company was then taken private and that is when I left to form Juniper.
Q: Wow, that is an incredible career. Do you have any significant mentors you modelled your career after?
A: I come from a long line of entrepreneurs. My father was an entrepreneur and my maternal grandmother was as well. She and her sisters formed a business in Germany in the 1920’s. My grandfather then married into that business and together they ran the business for their lifetime. So, for me, being an entrepreneur and running my own business never seemed out of the question.
My grandmother showed me that a woman could easily be an entrepreneur and could do so while balancing work and family. She was an exceptionally powerful mentor to me in a non-traditional way. She had a great love of life and she always sought positive solutions to the many challenges she had to face. At the heart of it, she was my inspiration and was the one who made me believe that nothing was beyond my reach. I was raised to believe that I could do whatever I put my mind to and with hard work and creativity I was more likely to be successful than not. In my world, failure was not really an option.
Q: Sounds like an excellent way of looking at things. Could you tell us why women in leadership is such an important cause for you?
A: Speaking specifically to our field, we are an industry that serves more women than men, employs far more women than men, and yet, the majority of leaders are men. And that’s a problem. If your industry is person-centered and consumer driven, you need to understand your consumer and you need a balanced approach. I believe women bring that to the table. For example, there are many similarities between men and women in the workplace, but there are also some basic differences. For me, I realized this the most when I had my son. I realized at my very core, that I was responsible for another human being. I believe at their core; women bring that deep un-abiding understanding of caregiving and a responsibility for wellbeing to the table. Not that men don’t, they can and do, but for women it is something that we learn in a very basic way in our lives specifically because we are women. I believe that understanding of the need to nurture and protect another individual and enable that person to thrive in the world, is something that is very natural to many women. Again, I don’t believe it is only specific to women, as this nurturing feeling definitely does not exclude men. But I can only speak from my own experience in knowing that becoming a mother changed me and I think it has made me a better leader in this industry of senior care because it has made me more person focused.
Q: Do you believe we as a society are getting better at promoting women in the workplace?
A: I believe this is true in small ways. I had hoped that by this point in my career, women would be a much larger part of leadership. And they aren’t yet. I think a solution lies in corporate boards. If you have a gender balanced board that is inclusive and represents the industry or the consumer, you can begin to shift the discussion of what works in your organization. It starts at the top and promoting gender diversity in corporate boards is fundamental to change for women.
Q: How do you feel about being the first ever Women of Distinction Lifetime Achievement winner?
A: I am deeply honored and incredibly grateful, particularly because there are so many women in our industry who could be honored. Winning this award makes me feel recognized and I am truly grateful for their recognition. But – I’m not dead yet and I’m not done achieving yet!
Q: How does Juniper support women in leadership?
A: Well, we have seven people on our leadership team and five of them are women. Since Juniper started, we have always strived to have a gender balanced board. Also, in terms of wages, we are highly attuned to what people need in order to live a balanced life and we have always promoted a good work life balance. At the end of the day, I think having a woman at the head who is willing to tell her story, and who is willing to listen to others has been really important. I think that having an outspoken woman at the helm, helps the rest of the organization to also speak up and be recognized and thus, achieve more. Men and women, we all have a lot to offer, and everyone has a new perspective of the world that is important. It’s making sure that you give a place to all of those individuals at the table so that they can bring what they have to offer that will help the business thrive.
Q: Are you part of any other initiatives that promote women in leadership you’d like to share?
A: Too many to mention! I am a big believer in supporting women’s efforts and female entrepreneurs. I recently made an investment in an all-women’s fund called Chloe Capital. I am also a member of C200 which is a group of women leaders nationally who have larger businesses. I am a member of what is now known as the Social Investors Circle, which is a group of socially conscious business people. I think this organization is one of the things that has had the biggest impact on me. When I joined that board, there were women there who really influenced me and who taught me a lot professionally, and personally. I also recently joined the board Sabra, a publicly traded REIT, where I became the first woman member of their board.
Q: Do you have any advice for women looking to be leaders?
A: Be yourself. Tell people what you believe in and realize that not everyone will agree with you. Find those with whom you share a passion and who will support you to work hard to achieve your goals.
Q: Do you have any advice for organizations how to support women in leadership throughout their organization?
A: More women on boards. We need gender balanced boards as soon as possible.