At an all-women’s luncheon at the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society’s annual conference in 2006, 20 women gathered around a long table to swap industry stories and exchange business cards. But what started as a typical afternoon of casual conversation eventually resulted in the formation of X2 Healthcare Network, an association dedicated to improving healthcare delivery and supporting the personal and professional lives of female healthcare executives.
Gale Wilson-Steele, the network’s executive director, says the healthcare industry operates on a chain of relationships that are often cultivated outside of the office over meals or on the golf course. Men, she says, are especially savvy when it comes to developing connections with colleagues. “Women do not have the same kind of ‘old girls club,’” says Wilson-Steele, founder and chief strategy officer of the Solvang, CA-based ehealth technology firm Medseek. “The advancement of women as decision-makers has created the need to establish that same kind of rapport and trust with each other.”
The network’s board of directors was created in February 2006, and in the following months the organization’s mission and membership structure materialized. Membership is by invitation only and is available to healthcare providers, payers, vendors, media and consulting firms alike. As of March 2007, the network had approximately 40 members. Two major events are organized each year—one in conjunction with a national healthcare conference such as HIMSS, and another with a focus on relationship-building and professional inspiration. “Women executives need access to an environment that supports sharing, safety and trust,” Wilson-Steele says.
In addition to its annual events, X2HN also uses the Web to schedule ad hoc meetings at conferences to help further promote networking, mutual support and resource sharing. Mentoring is also a vital element of the organization. “Intrinsically, competing and fighting is not a natural response from women. Survival comes from grouping together and protecting and providing for others, not annihilating the enemy,” says Wilson-Steele. —Matt Rogers