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We caught up with Carolyn Magill the CEO of Aetion at the #HLTH conference to capture some of her talk on the things smart companies do to close the gender gap. She shares pragmatic steps companies can take to address this pervasive problem in #healthcare and #healthIT. I hope you enjoy. 


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 Welcome to this Week in Health IT events where we amplify great ideas with interviews from the floor. My name is Bill Russell. We're covering healthcare, CIO, and creator of this week in Health. It a set of podcasts and videos dedicated to developing the next generation of health leaders. We wanna thank our founding channel sponsors who make this content possible, health Lyrics and VMware.

If you wanna be a part of our mission to develop health leaders, go to the homepage this week, And click on our sponsorship information. This week we're at the health conference in Las Vegas, and one of the things that the conference did extremely well was to highlight the women of the industry, uh, Lisa.

Soon, a recent guest in the industry leader captured it really well In a recent blog post, and this is what she had to say last year, there was some controversy at the con at the conference because there were 428 speakers and only 18% of them were female. It caused a definite kerfuffle. That's an exact quote, and people of the female persuasion were justifiably frustrated.

However, you have to appreciate it when people make mistakes and then not only learn from them, but double down on correcting them. I have been very impressed with Health's efforts to commit to diversity this year, and they have, uh, instituted a dedicated track and multiple conference events supporting women in healthcare.

They've also improved the female speaker ratio at the main conference to about 38%. That is a marked change in behavior and one to be recognized and lauded. And so I think she captured it extremely well. And one of the benefits of that was there was a lot of great women leaders to, uh, to speak with. And there were some great sessions and great talks.

And since this is such a pervasive problem within healthcare and health, it as well, uh, I decided to, uh, uh, sit down with Carolyn McGill, the CEO of Aon. Who shared a phenomenal talk with, uh, insights on the things that smart companies do to close the gender gap. Uh, I, I learned a ton. I hope you, uh, get as much out of it as I did have a listen and I hope you enjoy here.

We're from the Health Conference with another one of our interviews. I'm here with Carolyn McGill, the CEO of Aon, and uh, welcome. Thank you. Looking forward to the conversation. Yeah, me too. So, um, we're gonna go into the gender gap, which within Health it, which is a lot of our audience. Hmm. Um, I know within our health system, we didn't have a gender gap problem within the health system.

Mm-Hmm. . But within health it, we had a significant challenge that we were only Covid struggling with. So I'm looking forward to the conversation, but I wanna hear a little bit about you. So tell us about you, your career path and how you got to where you're at. Absolutely. So I'm the CEO of Aon. We have a tech platform that sifts through large amounts of healthcare data.

We call it real world data. So any healthcare data collected outside of a controlled setting, like a clinical trial. To figure out how well clinical interventions work for specific patient populations. And we do that with what's called real world evidence. So the sort of jargon in the industry is to transform real world data into regulatory grade, real world evidence.

Oh, okay. That help us make decisions about whether drugs are safe and how much we should pay for them, and how well they work for specific subsets of the population. So pharma is primarily your. Uh, client or is it other outside of pharma? So pharmaceutical manufacturers, life sciences clients, uh, license the platform to do analytics and they're doing studies to look at how safe a drug is, as an example, or whether a secondary indication would be appropriate using data to assess rather than doing a clinical trial.

Payers and at-risk providers and large employers, they benefit from the platform with respect to figuring out which medications. Different patient populations should be taking is the competi. Sorry, I can't help. Uh, we're gonna get into other topic. Is the competitive advantage the, uh, data sets that you have or is it the technology platform?

It's the technology. So we actually are not a data aggregator. Our pharma clients purchase data, just as you know, for their analytics. Our payer clients or provider clients, they have their own data sets because it's their own patients and, and members that they see. So we analyze those data sets in addition to data from registries, as an example.

Our secret sauce is what we consider to be regulatory grade analytics. So as we create a longitudinal patient view, we are experts in the causal implications of a clinical intervention. So we apply epidemiology and say, yeah, we can be certain that it's the fact you took this medication that led to an improvement in this clinical outcome and not a bunch of other things that were happening to you at a given point in time.

That's fascinating. It's fun. Wow. Um. Alright. So that's what the company does. That's what you do. So you, uh, gave a talk on the things that companies or even departments in my case. So we had a 700 person IT department, and I think our metrics were, they were awful. Mm-Hmm. , I'm not even sure I wanna share 'em.

They were, they were that bad. And, um, and I'm pretty sure I did a lot of the mistakes that a company would do. So I'm curious, so you shared some of the things that a, a company, a smart company would do to close the gender gap. What are some of those things? So I think there are a number of things, and I should mention, I'm also on the board of two non-profits.

So I'm on the board of, right, which is endeavoring to encourage organizations to interview at least one woman for the highest . Levels of organization, of leadership in their companies as well as on the board. And then I'm also on the board of, uh, an organization called Nash P, the National Academy for State Health Policy, which, uh, consists of state health policy makers effectively, so

So I, I've talked to companies who have said, we've taken the parody pledge. Yes, that's, that's what it's called. And, uh, yeah, those were interesting conversations about, so, so some of that is, is what they do in the parody. P so there's, there's one. Um, and the first thing I would say that good companies do to ensure diversity is to make the commitment and make it public.

So let your entire organization know that you believe this is important, why you believe it's important, and have that be something that you talk about. You mean transparency works, , it does. So I say from now on I'm gonna endeavor to have, you know, one at least as many, uh, female interviews as male interviews.

That's the pledge. That's really hard to do, by the way. Yeah, well, or at least say maybe it's not, uh, the same number of interviewees, but, uh, but you would say if I'm interviewing for a position, I need at least one woman to be part of the candidate slate. And you know, it's interesting, we were also talking about what some companies, uh, don't do as an example.

Some companies don't really excuse us, success. Some companies don't really , some companies don't necessarily make that commitment. And it's important to say . That this is, this means something to us. And then ensure that everybody throughout your organization appreciates that you've made that commitment.

Yeah. It's interesting, the, so the, the, uh, our hr, we didn't necessarily make it public, and so you could almost, you could hide Mm-Hmm. . Um, but even though our HR department said, okay, we have to start, uh, to have, try to balance out the candidate pool, which I think is one of the Mm-Hmm. things that the parity pleasure talks about.

Um, gosh, our recruiters had a tr struggled with it, are . Uh, uh, all the firms, they just, it's like they haven't been pushed in this way before. Yes, that's right. I actually had a recruiting firm for ACFO tell me that they could not find a qualified woman for me to interview for ACFO. Yes. I let them go. Wow.

For ACFO. It was, it was so ludicrous. Yeah. And of course we found another, um, another recruiting firm and they surfaced a number of qualified women. So sometimes it's about not just making that known, but then standing firm. And then I think we also need to, especially as leaders in the organization, we also need to lead by example.

So in hiring my leadership team is an example of choosing women and hiring women who set the tone for the kind of executive that we want, and then also for other people that we hire throughout the organization. Yeah, and I think that was one of my bigger mistakes, to be honest with you, is. Is, you know, I, I would look at, you know, a, a candidate pool, but we still tend to hire in our own image.

Mm-Hmm. . Even though we don't think we have that bias, we'd be like, well, that's the best candidate and you almost need, um, and one of the things I started to do later on in my, my tenure was I, I actually had a group of people doing the interview and making the recommendation to me. Mm-Hmm. . Now I was still the veto power of saying, no, you know, we're, we're hiring for an executive position and I'm the executive in charge.

That's a great idea. But it was. But it was good to have that diverse group saying to me, now you're not seeing this, right? Mm-Hmm. , because I don't know my own biases. A lot of times they're blind spots. So do you know what else we've tried to do on our leadership team is to choose people who have different communication styles and working styles so that we have some introverts, as an example.

We have some extroverts. We have some people who prefer to analyze a bunch of data and then think about it for a couple of days before they come back with their assessment. . We have others who, you know, you give 'em just a small percentage of the information and boom, they've made a decision. And I think including them in the interviewing panel as an example, is also helpful because now we get those different perspectives in the decision point.

That's interesting. So did we cover one or multiple at this point? So I think we covered multiple. I think that taking the parody pledge is a good place to start. So making your commitment known. I think leading by example is a second, and I think making it clear to your recruiters. That this isn't just a nice to have, but it's actually critical to your relationship with them.

It's a requirement is also quite important. Have we created the, uh, frameworks, the the mentoring frameworks to help, um, to help. So I, I know that as, as a, as a male leader, . I, I had a, a ton of different mentors frame, uh, just things that helped me to get to the next step. Does that same thing exist for women to varying degrees?

I think it depends on the company. And actually that would've been the fourth thing that I'd mentioned, is that it's not just about recruiting in the right women as an example. It's about giving them the support that they need to progress. And as we think about leaders in the organization, we don't just always wanna hire from the outside.

We would love to promote people from within as well and have that balance. And so providing mentoring relationships and support. And for us, it's not just about the fact that you have a mentoring program as an example, but it's about the substance. So how are you counseling these women, as an example, to advocate for themselves?

Or how are you ensuring that you're giving them the opportunity to get exposure to a new area of the business or to take on additional accountability for something that those are the ways that they start to get the skills that make them qualified for the next level of promotion. And so if we don't think about that from the time they're an analyst or more junior roles in the company, then they might never progress to where they have a significant leadership role.

So I'm gonna go back, um, I go in two directions here. Let me think. So the first one is, how can we get in front of this a lot earlier? Um, because one of the conversations that, that I've had with, um, uh, like, uh, Jamie Nelson, we were talking about, um, CCIO for a health system, . and she was talking, she, we were talking through this article where essentially said that if there's 10 criteria for ACIO job, Mm-Hmm,

And a guy, a man has three of 'em. He goes, I could do that job. But if a woman has eight of 'em, she looks at it and goes, I'm gonna work hard and get those last two before she applies. When in reality she's much more ready for the job. Um, it how, I mean, how do. How do you encourage women to say, Hey, you know what?

Take the risk? Well, I think there are a couple things. One, I think is to listen to women when they speak, right? And I think oftentimes, uh, we don't, or we think we speak for them. So I've had men as an example, come to me advocating on behalf of women who they believe deserve a promotion. Another approach would be to empower that woman to advocate on her own behalf.

I had a mentor at UnitedHealth Group many, many years ago. Who was prepping me to have what was a very difficult conversation to me at the top. For me at the time, it was about advocating for a raise for myself, and I was kind of petrified. And what this gentleman said to me was, you're just having a conversation.

And the worst they can say is no. Right? And if they say no, then the best response is, okay, if not now, then when and how. What are the things that I need to do between now and then? To help demonstrate that I am worthy of the additional compensation or I'm worthy of this promotion, and that means that you turn the conversation away from a shame-based conversation.

Like, oh, if you don't give me this raise or you don't give me this promotion, then I better just take my blocks and go home, or you don't like me, or, I have no future here. Right? There can be some . Um, some sort of downward ways to interpret and instead saying, oh, wait a minute. I deserve a seat at this table, and maybe you don't see it yet, but I believe in my skills and I can demonstrate it.

Right? Or, you tell me the things that you think are required, and I think what, no, that's not, or that's not what I want to do, or I don't agree with him, and now I have better information myself about whether this is the right company for me. Yeah. That's fascinating. So how have you implemented some of these things at your company?

I mean, you talked about some of them. Modeled it and you probably parody pledge, I would assume. We have taken the parody pledge. We talk about it, we talk about it at, um, at meetings. We make it known to people who are recruiting, um, both managers who are hiring as well as outside firms that we use. We also try to support our women.

So we have, uh, groups like women at Aon as an example. who are working to bring some of these conversations to the fore with outside speakers, to the extent possible, or even just amongst ourselves. And then in meetings that I'm in, I also try to demonstrate behaviors and call behaviors out that I think might be detrimental to the progression of women.

So if I notice a man repeating something that a woman just said, . That's right. Or I notice that someone maybe is looking to say something and hasn't necessarily been able to break in the conversation, then ask them to speak and encouraging others in the organization to do the same. And so that we start to make it a systemic and systematic approach to supporting women in their advancement and it becomes very part of our culture.

So what about kids? I mean we, oh, that's another great aspect. We actually have a very generous . Uh, health and wellness benefit. Um, we have family and Medical Leave Act as an example where we support new parents through parental leave. We give four months, and this is for both men and women and we find that that's a way to both attract and retain four months.

Hold on, let me get my resume. Yeah. , you're hired. You're hired. Yeah. Although I'm not having any more kids. , I think because the ones you have are wonderful. Yes. Well, that's a phenomenal benefit. I mean, 'cause you've, you've taken away the stigma or you've taken away the, the cha I mean, quite frankly, I, I was, I was talking to, not on an interview, so this won't come up, but somebody who was with the company long, they finally got their sabbatical.

Mm. They got, uh, two months and they only took two weeks off because they didn't wanna be away from work. And, and I was like, so I can only imagine that was, you know. It was interesting to talk to that, but that was definitely not a millennial. If that was a millennial, it would be like . Well, we hope so. We, we also have instituted a sabbatical program after a certain number of years with us, uh, as part of Aon.

And we want people to take it. We think it's, but people afraid for them, but they're afraid to. Well, but that's where we have to model. So that's where we need senior leaders of the organization, as an example, rockstar members of the team to take that time. Yeah. And then you start to just like with our paid time off, just like with our vacation

To demonstrate that, oh, this is something that becomes a thing for the organization, and if it's okay for our CFO to take this time, then it must be okay for me. If the CFO goes on vacation and he's working the entire time, then he models to his team that that's what he expects them to do. And you also, I mean, John Wooden once said, the team with the best players usually wins.

You want the best players. Absolutely. When they hear about these benefits, they go. That's a, that's a company I wanna work for. Yes, yes. So you can attract the best. Absolutely. And then we also support people in flexible work. So we don't have a set time that everybody has to show up to the office as an example.

We want them to get their work done and be thoughtful about the schedule that makes the most sense for them and their families. And that works for you. 'cause we, we started to implement, okay, so traditional healthcare system, a hundred some odd years old. And we said okay for it, we're gonna start to let some groups do this.

It was really hard, I mean. First of all, it to break a cultural model that had been there. Uh, people struggled to have meetings. Sometimes people weren't there and they, you know, weren't used to video and that kinda stuff. Mm-Hmm. , is this because you sort of instituted it from the beginning that it's, it's culturally easy or was it hard to get something like that?

I think because we've effectively instituted it from the beginning, and also keep in mind that we have a lot of women in STEM as an example, right. We have a technology team. We have a science team, researchers. We have a really strong, and you're also all the way across the country as well, right? We are primarily in New York City and Boston.

We also have an office in LA and then we have people who work remotely. Okay. And because we have people who are so adept in their respective fields, it's easy for us to tap into their expertise and also maybe to be clearer about when and how we need them to contribute. And I think it, you know, it's a.

It's a really nice culture of people wanting to support each other. So if I wanted to work from home and I know my team wants to meet, well then I need to make sure that I can connect with them when is effective for the team. We are also very adept at video and it's something we use all the time and, and we do it in a way that, uh, where we have really good AV equipment in people's homes, we have

Ways to connect that really feels like we are invest, present with each other. Invest you, invest in your employees. It's important. Yes, absolutely. Well, thank you very much for your time. I appreciate it. Is there anything else I should ask that I haven't asked at this point or? I don't think so. It's a fun conversation and I'm glad you're asking these kinds of questions because it's exactly the kind of conversation that we need to be having.

Well, thanks. I appreciate it. Thank you. Thanks. I hope you've enjoyed the conversation. If you would like to recommend a guest or someone to be on the show, you can do that from our homepage. Uh, recommend a guest is about three quarters of the way. Down on the homepage. Please check that out. And don't forget to please come back every Friday for more great interviews with influencers.

And don't forget, every Tuesday we take a look at the news, which is impacting health. It. This show is a production of this week in Health It for more great content, you can check out our website this week,, or the YouTube channel, which you can get to from our homepage as well. Uh, if you get a chance, take a look at our newly redesigned guest page.

I think you'll find it. Uh, fantastic. I love the way you can, uh, navigate through the content. Special thanks again to our sponsors, VMware and health lyrics for choosing to invest in developing the next generation of health leaders. Thanks for listening. That's all for now.


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