Taking over the boys’ club: learnings from the XX Retreat

XX Retreat Rock Health

Last month Rock Health hosted its sixth annual XX in Health Retreat bringing together over 200 women leaders in the healthcare field. The stellar list of speakers touched on a number of topics, ranging from deeply personal stories to broader lessons about how one can overcome gender bias and make your mark as a woman leader. Here are some learnings from the day:

Women need to be bold enough for the responsibility of success AND failure.

—Mecca Santana, VP of Cultural Affairs and Diversity for Westchester Medical Center

Mecca Santana had a number of great quips during her panel session, but this quote struck close to home. Being able to talk candidly about failure inspired many to confront fears of hearing ‘no’ and risk-taking in general. One young woman at my lunch table spoke about her failed grassroots campaign to engage co-workers in addressing their company’s woman retention problem. The older women at the table contributed their thoughts regarding similar battles they’ve fought, and how in the long run they were able to come out on top. Though the approaches were varied, one woman spoke about “how keeping her head down and constantly producing good work” served her well, while others debated about when it’s time to give up the good fight and join a more positive work culture. The conversation ended with one of the table’s entrepreneurs extending a job offer to the frustrated young woman.

Don’t do referral hiring or you’ll end up with the same hires.

—Vivienne Ming, theoretical neuroscientist

Dr. Vivienne Ming, a leading activist in the field of gender equality and LGBT issues, provided her insights regarding increasing creative diversity in your workplace. She emphasized how important this is for smaller startups, as larger organizations usually have policies in place to balance representation. Though her statement challenges conventional recruiting practices which many attendees have likely benefited from, it was difficult to argue with the sentiment.

Where to go from here?

Summing up advice shared throughout the day, here are some tangible next steps:

  • Audit the people in your network: Thank the mentors that you have. If you don’t have anyone that fills this role, identify the women who support you, and see if they’re a good fit.
  • Follow up: Reach out to anyone you’ve met recently and follow up over coffee.
  • Figure out your motivations: A challenge posed to some of our panel speakers: try to describe yourself without referencing your career. This is a great tool to figure out what drives you and those around you, and let those insights guide you.


What’s next?
The XX in Health network is made up of women who take time to support each other—whether you are looking to transition careers, or just interested in keeping abreast of industry activities, there’s a wealth of opportunities to stay engaged. If you are interested in connecting with the XX in Health community, make sure to join the LinkedIn group to stay in the know about future events and opportunities.