Gender Diversity

mCHATS: Celebrating Maestronite Women

By Bridget Houser, Accounting Supervisor

We’re celebrating International Women’s Day all month long at Maestro Health, because one day just wasn’t enough. One of the ways we’ve been celebrating gender diversity in our workforce is through our “mCHATs” with some of the women at Maestro Health, where we discuss everything from careers, role models and overcoming obstacles. Next up is Bridget Houser, Accounting Supervisor.

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How did you get to where you're at now? 
I studied Accounting and International Business at Indiana University. After graduation, I sat for the CPA exams and became a CPA. I started my career in public accounting at Ernst & Young and then spent two years working at Frontenac, a Private Equity firm in Chicago. I’ve now been with Maestro Health, where I’m an Accounting Supervisor, for three years.

Care to share some fun facts about yourself? 
I worked at Cold Stone Creamery for 5 years and loved every minute of it!

 What is the best career advice you've ever been given?
The best career advice that I’ve been given is that at the end of the day, work is about the relationships that you’re creating. It’s important to be learning and to be an efficient, productive employee, however, it’s also important to be building and nurturing relationships along the way.  

Are there any books you've read lately that have inspired you? 
I recently read Tribe of Mentors by Tim Ferriss. It’s a compilation of advice from various business leaders, celebrities, health gurus, etc. The people featured in the book share their personal success and failure stories and how they got to where they are today. My main take-away from the book is that everyone has their own path to success and ‘success’ looks different to different people. The things that work for some might not work for others and that’s okay. Reading about ‘successful’ people’s pathway to success and the failures/challenges that they’ve overcome was very inspirational.

 How do you get involved around your community? 
Outside of Maestro Health, I am a part of the Core Power Yoga community. I recently became certified as a yoga instructor through Core Power Yoga. Being a part of this community has given me a healthy hobby and a place to be surrounded by like-minded people who inspire me to be a better person. It has also helped to give me a work-life balance and a place to recharge outside of work. I am excited to give back to this community by teaching classes and helping other students gain what I’ve gained through yoga.

I also volunteer at Park Community Church in the kids care room so that parents can drop their kids while they attend service. I enjoy spending time with the kids and am happy to give hard-working parents an hour break in their week!

What do you like about Maestro Health? 
I like that I’m surrounded by smart, hard-working people who also value a good work culture. I find that people at Maestro Health truly embody our core values: biz-love, fun, preparedness, teamwork, kindness, humility, urgency, bold thought and honesty.

Any advice you can give to a woman looking to advance in her career?
It’s important to set goals and to write them down. Though your career likely won’t progress in a straight line, it’s important to lay out a roadmap of where you think you want to go. Equally important is setting aside time to reevaluate these goals as they will likely evolve over time. Having a mentor, ideally outside of your place of work, is also important as you’ll receive professional/personal advice from someone who’s already been where you are.  

mCHATS: Celebrating Gender Diversity

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.  

mCHATS: Celebrating Gender Diversity

By Sheryl Simmons, Chief Human Resources & Compliance Officer

While it may seem like International Women’s Day was first put on the map only a few years ago, the holiday dates all the way back to 1909. Today, International Women’s Day is recognized and celebrated in more than twenty-five countries.

We at Maestro Health want to join in the fun but decided one day just wasn’t going to cut it. So, to celebrate International Women’s Day, we’re taking the entire month of March and “mCHATTING” with some of the women at Maestro Health about careers, inspiration and overcoming obstacles.

We’ll be sharing our mCHATs here on our mBLOG. First up is Sheryl Simmons, Chief Human Resources & Compliance Officer.


Care to share some fun facts about yourself?
I love to sail our boat the Barcelona. I am a total travel junkie. My blood type is French roast. My playlists include 80s hair bands and old school jazz. I don’t have an athletic bone in my uncoordinated body.

How did you get to where you are now?  
I believe it has been a combination of being open to possibilities, pushing myself, and simply being in the right place at the right time. In terms of my journey to CHRO at Maestro Health, I was the Vice President of Human Resources at Group Associates, which Maestro Health acquired in 2015. Prior to that, I was the Director of Human Resources at Five Brothers Asset Management Solutions.

What advice do you have for other women in healthcare?  
Some of the best advice I have been given in my career is to listen. That’s important enough to bear repeating. Listen. Believe in yourself, surround yourself with strong people that push you to grow, and remember to send the elevator back down. It’s essential that you know your business inside out. As you grow in your role and career, be able to talk the talk of your C-suite and other peers. Keep yourself open to possibilities. You never know when an interesting opportunity will knock on your door.

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? 
Not just gender diversity but diversity. Period. The idea of denying a highly qualified candidate the opportunity to grow in their career or enrich your business because of their physical makeup is outrageous. Gender, sexual orientation, weight, age, ethnicity, religious beliefs – are you kidding me? The war for talent is raging. Intentionally narrowing the talent pool based on irrelevant details is more than just illegal. It’s a narrow mindset that only does your organization a disservice.

What do you like about Maestro Health? 
So many things but first and foremost that we encourage our employees to bring their authentic self to the job every day. Of course, we expect professionalism and for people to embrace our culture and core values. But the fact that we meet them where they’re at and celebrate the diversity they bring to our family – that’s true biz-love.

Are there any books you've read lately that helped inspire you?  

  • Doing Good Better: How Effective Altruism Can Help You Help Others, Do Work that Matters and Make Smarter Choices About Giving Back by William MacAskill

  • The Empathy Effect: Seven Neuroscience-Based Keys for Transforming the Way We Live, Love, Work and Connect Across Differences by Helen Riess, MD

How do you get involved around your community? 
Volunteer, volunteer, volunteer. I believe human beings are fundamentally wired to give. I love that we embrace this at Maestro Health. Maestronites have participated in a number of volunteer and fundraising opportunities, such as working at food pantries, making blankets for the homeless and foster kids, and school supply drives across all four of our locations. You don’t have to be rich to be a philanthropist. Your time is incredibly valuable. Get involved in what matters to you.

Are there any women you look to as inspiration? 
I really enjoy following Libby Sartain to hear her perspective on Human Resources. 

What is the biggest roadblock you've experienced in your career & how did you overcome it? 
It’s sadly not an uncommon experience, but I have worked at organizations where men in positions of authority viewed women as “lesser” in the business world. How did I overcome it? I put them in my rearview mirror. Life is too short for that nonsense.

Research suggests that women can face different challenges in the workplace making it more difficult to access opportunities, networks, resources, etc. In your view, what are some of these systemic challenges that still need to be addressed? 
Unfortunately, there are still many cultural gender biases that still exist both in the workplace and in relationships. For instance, childcare and managing a household are still often considered a woman’s responsibility when it's truly a parental or partner responsibility. 

A common gender bias issue that takes place in the workplace deals with the mental framework of emotional and verbal responses, i.e. a man will make a statement and he's considered assertive but if a woman makes the exact same statement she’s considered “bitchy” and consequently overlooked for growth opportunities. 

It’s also all too common to see women who struggle with imposter syndrome. We see it a lot in high-achieving women who believe they're unworthy of the roles they have earned, and fear others will expose them as a fraud. So not only are they facing external challenges, they’re having to refute their internal dialogue as well.

While there’s no magic wand to solve for these challenges, I believe open discussions embracing gender diversity, such as this blog series, can be a piece of the puzzle to help us get there. 

Overall, it should never be about men vs. women. Instead, it should always be about who is the best person for the job. And when the best is a woman – fight for her – not because she's a female but because she's the best.