Fostering Inclusion: A Spotlight on HDA’s Women’s Employee Network

March 25, 2024

Throughout the month of March, Women’s History Month has provided an opportunity to recognize the women whose tremendous efforts, both past and present, have enhanced the pharmaceutical supply chain and beyond. The healthcare distribution sector benefits each day from the contributions of its female experts and leaders. 

HDA has historically elevated women’s voices during this month to celebrate the exceptional female professionals working for our members, through its Faces of the Supply Chain series and more. This month, we recognize a few women who have volunteered for leadership roles within HDA’s new industry-wide Women’s Employee Network (WEN) employee resource group (ERG).

We spoke with co-assistant leads Rhonda Woloshun, Senior Operations Manager for Cencora, and Sarah Flanigan, Vice President Trade Relations for WG Critical Care, LLC, about why they chose to volunteer for leadership roles in this ERG and goals for the group. 

HDA: Why did you choose to participate in HDA’s ERG program and volunteer for leadership roles for the WEN ERG?

Woloshun: Despite all the progress made for women in professional settings over the last decade or two, it’s still far too common to come across real-world examples of high-performing female employees who struggle to claim the extent of their potential. I’ve led women’s ERGs across three companies in the last decade, and few things are more rewarding than helping a woman step into a space she didn’t believe she could (but was more than qualified for)! In leading this ERG, I’m so excited to open doors to networking, learning and growth opportunities and to continue making space for women.

Flanigan: I was fortunate to have been paired with an excellent mentor through the HDA Mentoring Program several years ago. The support and guidance I received through the mentorship experience was priceless and inspired me to strive to pay the valuable time and experience forward by supporting programming dedicated to empowering women.  

HDA: What is unique about HDA’s industry-wide ERG that could inspire other female healthcare distribution professionals and allies to participate? 

Woloshun: We’re working from the bottom up, continually seeking feedback from the members on what they want to gain from this ERG, and our leadership team delivers — easy as that! For example, most of our members entered the ERG wanting to learn more about overcoming imposter syndrome, so we’re hosting a development event with an author and TED Conference speaker.

Flanigan: HDA has been super supportive in letting us chart a path forward based on the collective feedback we’ve received from participants. I’m excited to have the opportunity to build community from the ground up and focus on the topics that inspire our member community to thrive. 

The amount of energy and momentum demonstrated by the ERG leadership teams and members has been tremendous. We would love to grow our membership in hopes that we can inspire and be inspired by our community.

HDA: Have you seen a shift in the presence and role of women within the healthcare supply chain? What progress would you like to still see? How do you think the WEN ERG could support that progress?

Woloshun: This ERG has been a fantastic opportunity to see more women who are already operating in high-level leadership roles. I believe we still have a way to go with further balancing the number of women we see in leadership versus men in the healthcare supply chain. I’d love to see proactive efforts to educate all on implicit biases and work to actively bring women into even more senior roles. When we do, we know more perspectives are represented and better outcomes for each business. As we develop our WEN ERG network and understand each woman’s career aspirations, I believe there’s a way to plug that information back into feedback loops between our members and their company’s own leadership, coupled with a progression plan. This ERG can provide many tools to develop skills and the hope is we can connect the dots to translate those goals into forward motion.

Flanigan: I have seen an increase in women holding leadership roles within the industry, as a variety of platforms create more transparency and visibility to the women who are breaking barriers and opportunities that didn’t seem as accessible historically.

Through our ERG, we’ve discussed the importance of capturing all voices with the goal of ensuring we focus on content that represents all members. We want to hear what's going well and where we have opportunities for growth.

HDA: What do you hope to accomplish through the industry-wide ERG? What does success look like?

Woloshun: I hope to continually increase our membership count and have authentic and transparent conversations about development.

Success looks like members receiving the tools they need to break through their own glass ceilings and use their own story as motivation to recruit new members. This cycle will fuel itself!

Flanigan: I hope to positively impact and inspire members in the same way I felt inspired when I leaned into the HDA Mentorship Program. From a tangible perspective, having many participant voices join our “small-feel” community, and from an intangible perspective, having members leave our meetings feeling renewed, energized and fulfilled would be the panacea for success.

Strengthening Belonging in the Healthcare Supply Chain

HDA’s ERGs are one way our organization has dedicated itself to fostering a culture of belonging within our association and the larger healthcare sector.

“Through these ERGs, HDA aims to provide a space for professional growth, community-building across different organizations and introducing new voices and perspectives. The world continues to move toward increasing inclusion, and these ERGs are a new way for HDA and its members to further support this momentum,” said HDA’s Meghan Knott, Director of Human Resources and Culture, and HDA staff sponsor of the WEN ERG. “As industry-wide groups, participants come together from different geographies, supply chain functions and employers of varied sizes that may or may not have internal ERGs. It’s been extremely positive to get different voices in a space together,” she noted.  

“We are already amazed by the energy from the WEN leaders,” said Knott. “They have hit the ground running, developing programming to help not only their group but all ERG participants. For anyone considering joining, it is never too late to ‘get out of your own box’ and find a sense of community and renewed energy from all the ERGs.”

As HDA observes Women’s History Month, the association and our members remain committed to developing spaces to foster and inspire future innovations by female leaders and allies.

We invite female healthcare supply chain professionals and allies from HDA’s member companies to join this or any of the other ERGs by filling out the form here. The groups will next meet on Tuesday, April 2, at 2:00 p.m. (ET), to continue their work and program planning for 2024. For more information on HDA’s ERGs, visit the HDA website or contact Subrina Ghorashi, Director, Education.

Note: Interviews were condensed for length and clarity.