Women on executive panel connect with audience during discussion event
Tonya Bland’s Workplace post sums up the Women’s Connection panel discussion, Nov. 14 at the Marriott St. Louis West.
Bland, BJC revenue cycle management, regularly documents department picnics, special events and office holiday celebrations by posting lots of photos on BJC’s Workplace site. But from the panel discussion, she posted only a selfie with one of her tablemates and a photo of her breakfast plate. The caption explains why: “I was so tapped in, these are the only photos I took!!!”
Most of the more than 250 attendees were “tapped in” to the panel of BJC women executives — BJC marketing, communications and public affairs senior vice president June McAllister Fowler, BJC group president Joan Magruder, and BJC vice president and chief nurse executive Denise Murphy.
Emily Brasel, BJC communications director, introduced each leader by sharing what she had learned from past interactions with each. She learned Murphy viewed shaping future BJC nurses as her most important job, said Brasel. From Fowler, she learned how powerful a few kind words can be. And from Magruder, she said, she learned the value of being true to yourself.
Local businesswoman Jessica Perkins then moderated the discussion, touching on subjects ranging from leadership and motivation to standing up for yourself and taking risks.
Each panelist shared personal stories that addressed issues many women have faced in the workplace over the past several decades, how they’ve faced those issues and “leaps of faith” they’ve taken.
Magruder, for instance, spoke of finding herself as the lone woman in male-dominated areas from childhood sports to an employee of the Johns Hopkins surgery department and how that spurred her to take a leadership role.
When Fowler was hired as a planner for St. Louis County, she was not only the only African American in the department, but one of very few women. She said that she was determined to defy expectations that she wouldn’t last in the department, and eventually ended up leading it.
Murphy was a newly single mom, working as one of the first system-level managers, when she was asked to write a strategic plan. She had no idea what a strategic plan was. “This is that moment of truth when you’re afraid to admit what you don’t know because someone just … named you a leader and you say, ‘Well I have the title, but I don’t know how to do that.’” By asking for help, she got to work with a “wonderful woman” who helped her write the first strategic plan for BJC’s infection prevention program.
Fowler told of discovering that as a director in county government she was being paid substantially less than her peers. She repeatedly asked for pay parity and was repeatedly assured it was coming. But when the raise never came, “I had a decision to make,” she said. “I could stay and be … disenfranchised. Or I could leave.” Fowler realized that broken trust was leading her in a different direction, and she eventually left. The incident taught her not to be afraid to ask for what she deserved, “So often, when it comes to pay, women don’t ask,” she said. “We worry that we will be seen as demanding and not nice. Guess what? That’s okay.”
Perkins wrapped up the discussion by asking panel members what they would say to their younger selves and how their lives would be different if they had followed their own advice.
Fowler replied that she’d have told herself it’s OK to ask for help and admit you can’t do everything by yourself. “And I wouldn’t have been as fatigued as I was a whole lot of days!” she said.
“I spent my early days wanting to be a boy, because I wanted to do what they were being allowed to do,” Magruder said. “I should have … embraced the excitement of what it was going to mean to be a girl and woman and the importance of that. Relish that you are a woman who is extraordinarily pivotal to the future of our country.”
Before the program, attendees took advantage of chair massages and a meditation circle provided by Move by BJC, as well as a photo booth.
The event also featured a diaper drive with attendees donating diapers or money to the St. Louis Diaper Bank. Before the discussion, attendees watched a short video on the founding and operations of the organization. Brasel said the drive was a result of feedback from the first Women’s Connection event emphasizing the importance of linking the group to community outreach.