They might have gathered with the initial aim of offering one another support and reaching out to other professional women in the addiction field, but once a group of female CEOs gathered in North Carolina two weeks ago, it became clear that their mission likely will grow even beyond that.
“This is a group that is going to take a stand on big issues,” predicts Rebecca J. Flood, CEO of the California treatment center New Directions for Women and lead organizer of the inaugural roundtable event for female leaders in the field, held Jan. 31-Feb. 2. “It will seek a united stand on areas such as bridging the gap between medication-assisted treatment and abstinence-based treatment.”
Amid the powerful discussions and quieter moments of relaxation at the event, it was evident to Flood that women in leadership in the field not only want to encourage the next generation of female leaders, they also want to serve a broader purpose of moving the field at large toward a common voice—helping to reduce some of the internal conflicts that often plague progress.
“The sense I got from this gathering was that the solution is in our field being able to accept that at times we will differ philosophically, but that we still must come together as a united field,” says Flood. “We’ve got to figure out what our common ground is.”
Thirty-four CEOs attended the by-invitation event held at the Grove Park Inn in Asheville, N.C. Most of the women run addiction treatment facilities, though related businesses such as call centers also were represented in the group. Sponsors of the event were treatment organizations New Directions for Women, Pavillon, English Mountain Recovery and Willingway Hospital.
Flood says that the participants exuded a state of being “on fire” about their work and their lives. “The women really wanted to be together, and bridge gaps, and address the issues,” she says. “There’s a sense of sometimes feeling alone.”
While Flood is certain that this group will proceed to make its voice heard in the field, participants do not yet know the specific form that this will take, such as whether the group will move to establish an official organization/association.
Flood says that 15 of the participants in the inaugural event already have signed up to serve on a steering committee for a 2014 meeting.
Also, in keeping with their mission to establish mechanisms for growing the next wave of female executives in the field, these individuals are looking at the possibility of being present at other industry meetings to conduct leadership workshops for young professionals.
As part of their effort to assess the present and consider the future, the group in North Carolina also honored the past by discussing a timeline of pioneering women in the recovery and treatment communities. Building on research started by New Directions for Women under the guidance of field historical expert William White, the group considered additions to a timeline that they hope eventually to publish.
This discussion led the group to conclude that it might be carving out its own place in the annals of addiction and recovery leadership, says Flood. “We all kind of said that we’re making history today,” she says.
Plans for the next leadership event are still in the early stages, but Flood says it is possible that the next meeting will involve both a convening of CEOs and then a larger gathering in which other professionals also would take part.