Mentoring young women leaders at Indegene - In conversation with Kay Uttech

23 Feb 2022
Mentoring young women leaders at Indegene - In conversation with Kay Uttech

We caught up with Kay Uttech, Vice President - Strategic Initiatives, Medical Affairs and Review Solutions at Indegene, who recently won the Engagement Achievement Award by the Healthcare Businesswomen’s Association(HBA). Our Talent Branding Lead, Anjali Lal spoke to her as she shared her experiences

Congratulations on receiving the Engagement Achievement Award by the Healthcare Businesswomen’s Association (HBA) for 2021! You have earlier won HBA’s Marie Curie Award for Innovation. Tell us a little about HBA and what these awards mean to you.

I really think it is great to be recognized both by your peers and by the organization. HBA is an organization with a network of individuals and a great place for women to grow. It offers women the opportunity to focus on themselves. It also gives women a view of what is going on in other organizations so that they can contribute back to their organization, to strengthen their company's ability to bring more women into the leadership roles. I think that sharing of information is important. As people are getting interacted to women in the upper-level leadership roles, it helps them to better determine their own path and to be able to see the possibilities of growth for themselves.

It is inspiring to have a body such as the HBA that is committed to gender parity especially in leadership positions with a focus on the healthcare industry. Kay, how you got to become a part of it?

I joined HBA back in 2007. It offered great networking events. But the thing that really attracted me in HBA was the mentoring program. I met great people and learned a lot from them. I also learned how to negotiate some challenging situations at work with their advice and counsel and was able to make that next job move for myself. Subsequently, I became a mentor in HBA because I had a positive thought about the program.

Outside of the central HBA organization, everything is done by volunteers. HBA has chapters that work locally. Currently, I am a member of the Research Triangle Park chapter in North Carolina, but I am volunteering in the southeast region of the United States.

Speaking of mentoring, at Indegene, it is something that we are heavily invested in at this point in our growth curve. What role did it play in your own journey?

I have had a number of mentors in my career. Some I still have from the very beginning of my career. There are people who I turn to for advice or perspective. There are people who know me well and know my work well. They are also the people who can be my greatest cheerleaders, and also call me back to reality when maybe what my expectations are not necessarily realistic with what the business requires or what may be expected of me. I think they can be very helpful in providing that different view outside yourself, both in a positive way to build you up, but also to bring you back to that sense of realism. Sometimes we might think that our way is the only way to handle something, and they can help us see that other side.

That sounds like a strong and solid support system, that has your support. Within pharma, you probably have seen it all in your 20+ years here. You began as a pharmacist and now Vice President, Strategic Initiatives for Medical Enterprise at Indegene. How well, would you say, are women represented in healthcare?

In fact, it is strange that women represent somewhere between 70%‒80% of all the employees in healthcare depending on which sector of healthcare you are talking about. But in leadership roles, at the Vice President level, women represent maybe about 20%‒25% of the roles. And beyond that, in the C suite, it actually decreases significantly, and it is <10%. So, although I think we have made great gains, there is more ground to be gained for women taking on these senior leadership roles.

We need more women in these roles. Research that has been done show that actually companies that have more women in senior leadership roles show a better business performance, just because of the diversity of thought and bringing new ideas in and taking a different facet to the approach about how business is handled … and ensuring that a large segment of the community that consumes healthcare needs to be represented as well. Recently, I have seen data showing that women make the majority of healthcare decisions, and not only for themselves but also for their families.

How has this influenced your work at Indegene. It has been a year now, has it not? In the context of mentoring, gender parity, women in leadership roles, how do you view the organization, and what you are working on toward it?

During the last year, we have been able to implement a mentoring program for our mid-level female managers to help them, especially during the pandemic. It has been challenging for people to maintain connectedness and see opportunities for themselves inside the organization. We do skip-level mentoring, and I have been not only mentoring some of them to ensure that they feel that level of connectedness but also helping them identify potential opportunities for their own professional development inside the organization and help them make connections inside the organization that maybe in their day-to-day work, which they are not aware of. That has been a great addition.

The other thing is a relatively newly established program called Athena, which is a business resource group that has been developed to help foster the work of women and improve women's focus on career development for themselves. It has been up and running just less than a year. We are really starting to get traction with that and see women gravitate to that and reach out to ask questions, get assistance, and work to utilize that internal network to advance their careers.

Wow, you really a mentoring champion, isn’t it?

Absolutely. Whether it is a formal program or an informal program, I think the only way that it is going to get done is if women who have moved up to leadership responsibilities give a hand to others to help bring them along as well. I think it is so important to be able to pay it forward to other women and help them grow and develop, as well as demonstrate your leadership at different situations. I have the opportunity to be able to spend time at this point in my career to give back and that is rewarding.