How Mentorship, Networking and Visibility are Changing the Game for Women in Healthcare

Tired of looking at company board member photos or conference panels and seeing a wall of male faces? One online platform is working to change that with the help of mentorship, networking and visibility.

A recent Forbes article featured several online female-focused organizations that are changing the professional networking landscape.  They all create a place for women to find authentic personal and professional relationships, away from advertisers, something they aren’t able to find on LinkedIn, Twitter, or Facebook.

But is professional networking enough? CSweetener is a holistic female-focused organization that’s changing the game for senior level women in healthcare. Rooted in mentorship, networking and visibility, CSweetener helps propel executive women forward and into the C-Suite. The organization is built around its mentors: hundreds of talented and accomplished healthcare industry veterans who have the desire and wherewithal to give back and help talented women succeed.

“Our brand promise is that we connect rising stars in healthcare—women already advanced in their careers and on their way to the C-Suite—with talented and experienced healthcare industry leaders who are committed to helping propel women leaders into the C-Suite,” said Anne Bentley, executive director of CSweetener.

CSweetener was founded by Lisa Suennen and Lisa Serwin, two healthcare C-Suite executives who were challenged in their first roles in the C-Suite and wished they’d had access to mentors. So they pulled together their rolodexes and formed a roster of mentors with the intent to help women accelerate into the C-Suite via mentorship. And CSweetener was born.

But instead of focusing on helping women find one mentor, Suennen and Serwin wanted to go big. “Not just a mentor,” said Bentley, “but a variety of experienced and accomplished industry veterans who could guide them on their journey to and into the C-Suite, because the journey is rarely linear, and one needs different skills at varying points along the way.

“It’s rare that one mentor can fit all needs; more likely, a person might need their very own personal advisory board to help navigate the terrain.”

Today, CSweetener offers mentees the opportunity to build their personal advisory boards for mentorship and networking with the help of the organization’s virtual profile matching service. The algorithmic profile system matches mentees with a series of mentors who have the experience and qualifications she is looking for. From there, she can schedule calls, video-conferences or in-person meetings with her mentor.

The network utilizes online mentor program technology to help women connect in real-time, giving them access to a community of experts. “CSweetener does vet all our mentors, and our standards are quite high. Our mentors are highly experienced and accomplished industry veterans who are committed to propelling senior level women in healthcare to succeed in and into the C-Suite,” said Bentley.

CSweetener has received a positive response so far, with over 200 mentors on their platform. “The first session I had with a wonderful mentor, we talked about negotiation skills; she advised me a way to accelerate my career and continue to grow my skill set,” said a CSweetener mentee. “She advised me on various leadership skills that I think will be helpful to me as well.”

One mentor helped her mentee overcome her insecurities about talking with senior men and board members in her company. “This has been one of my most successful experiences because she came back and said ‘You have given me a way to merge my personal and professional selves and I have never felt more like myself.  Such a win for both of us. My business is thriving. I feel more comfortable in my own skin.’ It has really been such a great experience for both of us. I feel so accomplished because I was able to help her figure out how to help herself and there is nothing better than that in a mentor-mentee relationship.”

CSweetener has built a community where women and men can empower future female leaders in the healthcare industry in a safe and supportive environment. And this year, CSweetener rolled out its Speaker’s Bureau, a roster of experienced, subject-matter expert female speakers ready and willing to speak at conferences and on panels. “We added the Speaker’s Bureau as part of our offering because women who are experts in their field need to be seen and heard as experts in conferences and on panels,” said Bentley.  “The simple truth is, if you aren’t visible, you aren’t seen as a leader, and it makes it that much harder to ascend to a power position.”

When asked about the larger issue of fighting gender bias in the workplace, Bentley said “Gender bias can only be conquered by continuing to build awareness, take action and provide services which help women into leadership roles.” And networks like CSweetener are helping to do just that.