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Dumb Employers, Lucky Startups And An Untapped Reservoir

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Editor’s note: This guest post was written by Dave Chase, the CEO of Avado.com, a patient portal & relationship management company that was a TechCrunch Disrupt finalist. Previously he was a management consultant for Accenture’s healthcare practice and founder of Microsoft’s Health platform business. You can follow him on Twitter @chasedave.

A group of women is re-entering the workforce today and reshaping how products are made across key tech sectors like health & wellness, commerce and social products. Not only do they have the experience of raising families, but they’ve been business and technology leaders earlier in life. They’re becoming founders and leaders at startups and in the very companies they’ve been buying products and services from.

Not only do women make most of a family’s health decisions but 48% of graduating physicians are women and women compose 73% of medical and health services managers. As a healthtech startup, we think heavily about the importance of what I call the Family Chief Health & Wellness Officer (aka “Mom”). Avado is not unlike many startups in that we have two male co-founders.  We’d be fools to not figure out ways to bring the female perspective into our business.

A bootstrapped startup such as Avado has many challenges, but it also possesses some key advantages. I want to share one key advantage related to this topic. I think it may be one of the biggest untapped reservoirs of talent. The beauty of startups is results matter much more than rigid hiring practices. Big, dumb companies often have rules that preclude a huge category of the potential workforce from being tapped. It’s a category that I’m familiar with as my wife was previously a marketer at Apple and Microsoft, yet it’s likely neither would hire her right now as her time commitment with our kids during the day doesn’t allow her to show up during a normal work hours. However, we get the benefit because she is able to help us with our marketing in the windows of time she has.

Another thing dumb employers do is look at gaps in “normal” employment as a big drawback. Let me give you an example of a new member of our team that we are absolutely thrilled to have on board. Julie Braman is our new Managing Director of Innovation for Pharmaceutics and Biotech. She and I worked together when I was running Microsoft’s health business and she was the founder of another industry business – pharmaceutics. Julie chose to stay at home while her kids were growing up. As I know with my wife, that hardly means one’s brain shuts down. Rather, it brings an entirely new perspective the business can benefit from. In fact, perhaps the most important trend in healthcare and the focus of the recently rolled out Stage 2 of Meaningful Use is “Patient Engagement.” As a member of the “sandwich generation,” many former professionals turned stay-at-home moms not only have had responsibility for their children but many are also increasingly responsible for their parents’ health. This gives them a particularly unique perspective. Since patient engagement is our central focus, the perspective of a boomer female head of household is invaluable.

Having Julie join the team is a real win-win. She is able to jump back into a very meaty job without skipping a beat. For Avado, it’s a no-brainer. Julie was one of the pioneers in bringing pharmacists into active engagement in primary care practices while she was a practicing pharmacist at Group Health — this is a rapidly growing trend with the shortage of primary care physicians. Julie was also in Sales with pharma giant, Eli Lilly, so she understands that perspective as well. As Life Sciences has proven to be fertile ground for Avado, I couldn’t think of a better fit and I couldn’t care less that she’s been “out of the workforce.”

Julie is far from unique. Brad FeldFred Wilson and others have written about the lack of women in tech yet there is a group of tech veterans re-entering the workforce that are an untapped reservoir. While many of my female colleagues continued working full-time, there are a boatload of them who either worked part time or were full-time Chief Health & Wellness Officers. Their kids have grown up and they are ready to fully re-engage with the workforce. They worked for the defining companies of the 90’s such as Apple, Intel, Microsoft, Oracle, Sun and others that were the Facebooks and Googles of their time. In other words, they were the cream of the crop then and they are the cream of the crop now. We feel lucky have them join our team and think other startups would be just as lucky if they learn how to engage this untapped reservoir of talent.

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