By Kirsten Williams, Product Manager, Benefits Administration
Last week, the world celebrated International Women’s Day. At Maestro Health, we simply didn’t think one day was enough. So, we decided to take the entire month of March to celebrate the gender diversity in our workforce by chatting, or “mCHATTING,” with our employees about careers, inspiration and overcoming.
We’ll be sharing our mCHATs throughout the month of March, here on our mBLOG. Next up is Kirsten Williams, Product Manager – Benefits Administration.
How did you get to where you're at now?
Prior to joining Maestro Health, I was in HR, having started my career as entry level working up to eventually running an HR department for a large insurance brokerage firm. It was a very traditional firm.
When our son was born four years ago and subsequently diagnosed with cerebral palsy, the firm did not meet my current family needs with respect to flexibility of hours in the office. He had a myriad of medical appointments and therapy sessions during the weekday. It didn’t matter that I worked hours at night to complete my work because I wasn’t physically at my desk from 8 am – 5 pm. My boss and the CEO, who was male, was very approving of the flexibility, but the traditional culture hadn’t caught up with his thinking.
When I was looking for something new, I called my old buddy Shay Butler for a reference at Maestro Health, and the rest is history! I am pleased to look back at my former company and see how far they have come with advancing women into leadership roles and being more flexible with hours physically at the office. I would like to think that my experience helped catapult the company in the right direction.
What are some of the personal experiences that have influenced your thinking around gender diversity in the workplace that have motivated you to get involved in being an advocate for change?
My first real job out of college was at a window manufacturer where all the executives and most of the line managers were men. I remember a woman being hired over a few of the plant managers for a hefty salary compared to what the men were making. I’m embarrassed to admit that even I was shocked by it! An experience like that illustrates how difficult it is to change the mindset around a woman’s qualifications. Many of us have been conditioned to think that men are superior due to our own upbringing and experiences, especially if we had mothers that didn’t work outside the home.
What do you like about Maestro Health?
Most employers say family is first but I really feel it at Maestro Health. I have never felt guilty when a family emergency came up and I had to put my work second. As a working mother, this is incredibly important to me. The key to making this work company-wide is a mutual respect to do a good job by both the employer and employee. For example, last week my son had a dental emergency and I had to attend to him. Knowing that it would take a few hours of my day I told my husband that I would need to work at night so I could catch up on things I missed. I respect Maestro Health’s time – just as they respect mine.
Do you feel that Maestro Health is a diverse workforce?
I’m proud to work at Maestro Health for a number of reasons. And I do think that we have a good mix of men and women throughout all parts of the company. It would be nice to see more diversity in roles traditionally held by women vs. those traditionally held by men. But as with anything, we are not perfect, and can always strive to do better.
How do you get involved around your community?
I grew up in a very small community where I learned the importance of helping others that are less fortunate. I’ve been active on various boards, and I am currently the President of Riverview Center Board of Directors. My husband Chris and I have raised money for the March of Dimes and our local hospital. Recently, we have gotten involved in Ainsley’s Angels and the Miracle League of Dubuque.
In addition to our four year old, we have a fifteen year old son who is very active in sports and a seventeen year old niece who has lived with us for the past year. Welcoming her into our immediate family and being involved in my community has allowed me to tap into a skill set I didn’t know I had. There are so many benefits of volunteerism (or surrogate parenting!) that bleed into how one performs as an employee.
What is the biggest roadblock you've experienced in your career and how did you overcome it?
I think the diagnosis of Peter’s cerebral palsy caused a roadblock in my career because I was in the wrong company for the circumstances. I didn’t feel like I could progress in my role while still staying actively involved in his treatment. I overcame it by finding another position at Maestro Health that allowed me to thrive while caring for those who are most important to me. I was very lucky to have that opportunity; but it also speaks how you carry yourself can have consequences down the road. Had I been a poor performer when the circumstances weren’t right, or blamed others for my situation, I wouldn’t have other opportunities. I took control of the situation and made the move for the right reasons.