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Athena Podcast Series: UMPC Health Plan

Interview by Jonathan Kersting

Athena Awards Podcast Series


The Pittsburgh Technology Council and UPMC Health Plan are partnering to highlight the Athena Awards with regular interviews of the 2020 Athena Awards winners and finalists.

We're kicking off the series with UPMC's Maris Dauer and Kim Orth to detail why the Athena Awards are so important for UPMC Health Plan and what the organization does to promote women across the workplace.


This is Jonathan Kersting with the Pittsburgh Technology Council and Tech Vibe Radio. excited to bring you the new Athena Pittsburgh Podcast Series with the UPMC Health plan. I tell you what, we're really pumped about this new project because it's gonna be a year long focus on all the really, really talented and remarkable women from the 2020. Athena awards. We had it back in the early fall, had the event virtually Of course, the enthusiasm was just contagious and absolutely cool. And we're excited to tell each one of the Athena winners and finalists stories through this podcast series with the UPMC Health Plan. And joining me today I have two fantastic people that I knew you're just gonna love just to talk about the Athena awards, why they're important, and why UPMC Health Plan gets behind it. And joining us today, of course, is Maris Dauer. She's the Senior Director of Marketing Administration and Community Outreach at UPMC Health Plan, and with her is Kim Orth. She's the President of Commercial Products. I was gonna start off with some introductions. So Maris, quickly tell us about yourself and what you do at UPMC Health Plan.

Sure, thanks for having us here today. It's great to be with you and to promote the Athena awards. So I'm, as you mentioned, Senior Director of our marketing administration, and community outreach at UPMC health plan. I've been with the health plan for a little over 16 years now in various roles. And my position includes a few areas of responsibility. But related to this, I've been a part of Athena for over a decade now. And like unity role. So Athena is important to me personally and professionally.

So it's in your blood, that is for sure that is very cool. And then Kim, what's your what's your gig at UPMC Health Plan and what gets you out Athena?

I want to thank you all. So for having us today, we are very excited to talk about Athena, it's very near and dear to our heart. But I am president of commercial products at the health plan, which our commercial products, our employer group, or individual ancillary line product. So we insure about 15,000 groups, across buying departments, we also sell an individual product, I have producer relations and product development also. So it's really kind of our external products to our community that my group sells. Very cool stuff. Let's get the conversation started. So there's over a decade with Athena give us the details on this because if anyone knows Athena inside and out and why it's so important, it is most definitely give us the details.

So when I first became involved with Athena, the presenting sponsorship became available. And our president Diane Holder, a successful female leader in our community, as you all know, is the president ceo of UPMC Health Plan, was interested in supporting the program because of its support of women. And so we began being the presenting sponsor of The awards, I would say probably back in late 2018, or 22,008 2009. And I became part of the host committee and helped put the event together as you know, Athena was started in Pittsburgh back in 1990, a woman by the name of Barbara McNeese, who was at the Allegheny conference on community development was one of the people that brought it here to Pittsburgh. It's a it's a national and international program. And so we started it in Pittsburgh in 1990. And it's grown to be one of the largest Athena programs minus this year because it was virtual, but it was, I think, the third or fourth largest Athena program in the country. In its recent times when it was in person. I actually served as chair of the event from 2010 to 2012. And then went back to sit on the committee as part of our sponsorship as well, the thing that Athena had always was sort of, we call it the Big Mama award with the original Athena award, but then during my tenure as chair, we started the Athena young program that was started in 2011. And the Athena young program was designed for women who are 35 and younger, and also have the same success and attributes that the general Athena award has but more focused on younger, up and comers and how they serve as role models, instead of being mentors since they're earlier in their career. So the Athena's got a long history here in Pittsburgh. It's been one of our most well attended and most desired events. We've had 1000 people in person Over the years, it's a great event and one that we're happy to, to support as UPMC health plan, but just in general for the community, since it's such a great, impactful program,

I couldn't agree more this is attended virtually, and my mind was blown, the passion, the enthusiasm, the excitement. Now it's like, man, I can imagine if everybody was in person. So it's definitely a cool, cool event. So Kim, tell us, you know, why are the awards important recognize women in their professional achievements and what they're doing with within the community as well, too.

You know what, Jonathan, for starters, it's really nice for people to receive recognition for good work. Our finalists and winners are in it for the award, but it means something when your peers recognize you, and that you've really made a difference. Even more importantly, though, Athena, we've had an opportunity to demonstrate to other women that it's not only achievable to be a successful business and community leader, but it's enriching and fulfilling as well. So one of the things that I know we noted during the Athena awards during our introductions is one of the things that holds women back is a lack of role models and access to informal networks. Interesting, and gives you that, yep. And it's very hard to rise to the top by yourself, especially when you look around and you don't see anyone that looks like yourself. So in a bag like this, that honor successful women, and serve who serve as role models, and they also play a part in their community. And it really also encourages others to pay it forward. We are just always very excited to support this event, and can personally why play we get so fired up about it. I'm sure there's a kernel inside of there that you really identify with this and get fired up over it.

You know, I honestly appreciate the fact that the Athena awards, promote women who serve as mentors and help other women achieve success. As a woman leader myself, I think that is so important. And this again, it's an award that amplifies women's voices in it, it supports and encourages collaboration. Absolutely. And I knew Maris obviously, this thing runs deep in your soul here when they're really fired up about it.

No, I agree with everything that Kim has said about the importance of it and serving as mentors and role models. And, you know, I've seen over the last 10 years or more that how impactful it can be how the the recipients of the award, get a voice because of you know, the stage that they're on and people can hear about the great things they're doing, but the the places that they connect with in the community, and it raises the level of awareness of their community partnerships. And I think that the Athena award promotes that mentorship and just the networking that can mention, and brings women together, not just for this, this event, but for understanding and being a role model, being a mentor, and paying it forward. Like Kim said, fantastic stuff. Notice I got to ask you about UPMC Health Plan get behind this company. Obviously health plans behind so many cool things in Pittsburgh, you guys really spread your wings, and just really you lift so many things. And I feel like obviously this is one of the more important things they can really get behind. Why does UPMC Health Plan believe so strongly in the Athena awards?

Well, you know, like I said, we have a female leader and Diane Holder, who has been president and CEO of UPMC Health Plan for 17 or 18 years now. And she's always been a strong supporter of all things related to women and girls, whether that be the Athena awards, the Girl Scouts, the Women's Center, and shelter, all kinds of things that support and promote women in their health and women and their success. And so you know, providing it's such an important factor to have in the success of a business is having women involvement for security at leadership levels. There's been a lot of statistics and and data out there saying boards are better when they have women representation on them. So promoting women and their success in the community. Both are not only both, but they have business in the community and then being that mentor role model is critical. And so that is important for women of all levels. And we want to make sure that we're supporting women of all levels. Absolutely.

Obviously, obviously with Diane within the leadership that she's had at the health plan. I mean, the idea that like PC must do a ton to promote women in the workplace. I'm sure that it's gotta be a top priority to keep that rolling. Is that the case?

I would absolutely I mean, we are strongly committed to the values of diversity and inclusion, which includes, you know, in very important for us supporting and empowering women. So our ideal is reflected in the fact that across the Insurance Services Division 49% of our leadership positions are held by women, which is I think it's a pretty, that's an amazing

That's fantastic. Yes. And also, our parent company, UPMC, has been named number one in diversity, MBA rankings of best places for women, managers to work. So both of those things, Jonathan, we are very excited about. And we one thing, you know, shows how UPMC promotes and champions women in the workplace. Absolutely. In addition to that, not only at the Insurance Services Division, but across UPMC, we have a number of women in leadership positions, running divisions and quality and networks within the whole system of UPMC. So it's something that is a value across our entire company, that I believe that 100% I just love seeing that you give me that number. I'm like, one of the few we really have that equal number going on. I just love hearing that. Very, very cool stuff. Because switching gears a little bit here when it comes to all things Athena. So I mean, how do you think the awards? You know, the finalists and winners? How do they inspire women to best know, both personally and professionally?

I mean, I personally feel when you start when you're surrounded by people and women who are digging in and making a difference. Yeah, it really raises the bar for everyone else. When you see women who are kind of at the top of their game professionally, and they're also involved in their community, and they're mentoring others, it challenges you to think about what else you can do. Definitely,

I would say, even as a male, it was inspiring to me. Because when I was watching the awards, despite the fact that it's COVID-19, and we were doing is virtually I was so charged up afterwards, I was like, man, here's a group of women that are just doing incredible work. You know, they're helping their communities in ways they're just unbelievable to me. So am I right? That COVID-19 did not curve aren't these iasme on this, then?

I don't think it did at all. I don't either. I think I felt an enthusiasm during the event. You know, all the chat, the chat functions that kept coming in and people were making comments the whole time, and the same enthusiasm that you would feel in person, I think was there. And people really wanted to support the event because of the situation and the virtual pneus of it. And so I think it was as successful if not more this year, in its virtual world.

I'm very excited. As we begin to continue to explore some of these winners and finalists over the podcast series. What do you think we're gonna learn from some of these women as we begin to tell their story and one by one through the series?

Well, I mean, like I said earlier, you know, one of the things that happens when a woman is nominated as a finalist, or becomes the recipient of either Athena or Athena young, is that they're interested in causes get a voice and get heard. And so I think we'll learn about all of the great work that they're doing, and maybe how we can also help if it's a cause that becomes near and dear to our own hearts. And I think it's a way also for us to see that you can do all of these things and be successful in these areas and look to these women as role models. If you can't have them, be directly a mentor, you can still look up to them and say I want to be like her, or I want to advance maybe I can reach out to her and she'll talk to me about this. So I think we're going to learn a lot about what their commitments are, what challenges they've had, I'm sure Kim and her leadership role has had challenges as a female and I think we'll learn that as well from all of our recipients and finalists. Kim's or anything want to add to that. No, I agree. I think even just going back to the award ceremonies, the stories were impactful. I'm very excited to see how, you know, the award recipients take it to the next level now because, you know, you saw from their interviews and obviously the work that they've done already, that they're in that position and they're willing to do that and I just can't wait to see what they do.

All the way around just such a fantastic stuff. So what can we expect in with next year's awards? How can we make it more exciting to move forward? So we are so excited to be partnering with UPMC health plan everybody else that makes these more possible.

So I think, you know, UPMC elfin remains committed to the Athena awards, and I think next year hopefully, we will be in person for the event. But one thing that you have initiated this year that we never had before was this series, right. So we are starting this podcast series to highlight the recipients of the awards and the finalists through the through the whole course of the year. And one of the things we struggled with, you know, when I was chair and on the committee was maintaining the momentum throughout the year. And I think this podcast will give that momentum which will only further build and and give the awards and even bigger stance when it comes time to have them in the fall next year. Hopefully in person.

I could not absolutely agree with you more on that point. That is for sure cake. I cannot thank you enough for being part of this kick off podcast with UPMC health plan. Thank you so much, Maris and Kim for being part of this conversation today. Really looking forward to having more of these as we go through the year to promote the great work that women across Pittsburgh are doing. This has been Jonathan Kersting with the Pittsburgh Technology Council and TechVibe Radio, bringing you the UPMC Health Plan Athena Podcast Series

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