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Women examine their leadership role

November 15, 2012
by Gary A. Enos, Editor
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The addiction treatment workforce suffers from a dual indignity: a shortage of entry-level staffers coupled with the aging-out of leadership at the other end of the curve. With women comprising an estimated 70% of the staffing ranks in the treatment community, a group of female executives considers it high time to support the women who can lead the field going forward.

More than 200 female CEOs in the addiction field are being invited to attend a roundtable event to be held Jan. 31-Feb. 2 in Asheville, N.C. A planning committee for the event already is occupied with the initiative’s first work product: a timeline that will offer an historical perspective on the contributions of women who have forged the way for others in the profession—prominent names such as Marty Mann, Geraldine Delaney, Betty Ford, Claudia Black and Stephanie Covington.

Rebecca J. Flood, the CEO of the New Directions for Women treatment facility in California, had been contemplating an event such as this for some time. She has seen over the years how male administrators in addiction treatment have established regular opportunities for bonding and mutual support, such as the ubiquitous golf outing tied to many professional conferences in the field.

Flood, whose career spans nearly 40 years, remarks, “Women of my age and generation didn’t necessarily grow up being part of sports teams together. If anything, we were pitted against each other.”

Yet she adds that this effort should not be seen as reflective of a gender competition in the field. “I don’t think men or women have necessarily been nurtured to assume leadership roles,” she says.

The planning committee for the January roundtable, to be held at the historic Grove Park Inn resort in Asheville, is inviting female executives whose primary business is in the addiction field and who have autonomy over decisions such as hiring and firing in their organizations. The targeted organizations encompass both public and private treatment centers, as well as affiliated groups such as consulting firms and other vendors serving this market.

Sponsors of the event are New Directions for Women, Willingway Hospital (Georgia), Pavillon (North Carolina) and English Mountain Recovery (Tennessee).

Some of the organizations represented in the planning committee are The Haven, Alta Mira Recovery Programs, Journeys Intervention Services, Inc., Premazon Internet Business Consulting, and Beyond Betty, the new social and learning community for women in recovery in the Denver metropolitan area.

Flood, who conducts a workshop on the “pinking” of the addiction workforce at numerous professional gatherings, hopes about two dozen women will attend the inaugural roundtable. She believes the group can learn from the history of female leadership in the field and then can establish a forum for supporting women leaders in the here and now, as well as growing the leaders of the future.

“Women leaders are notorious for not practicing what they preach and taking care of themselves,” Flood adds.

She believes that more experienced leaders in the field are in an excellent position to provide mentorship to the next generation. “We all need to hear each other more, and the only way to do that is with open dialogue, and women tend to be good at open dialogue,” Flood says.