By Cerrina Jensen
It started as a vague idea to promote female leadership in our industry, and now – 16 months later – we are making final preparations for our second CAHU Women’s Leadership Summit (WLS). Pinch me! Actually, the original trigger that planted the seed took place at a birthday dinner to celebrate Past CAHU President Stephanie Berger, during NAHU’s 2018 Capitol Conference. There were a number of colleagues who attended, some arriving later once their flights arrived in DC. But the first round of attendees all received a silly little party favor gift from a clever prankster at the table. These tiny plastic men in their tiny briefs all had a name on their butt. Mine was Mitch. There was also a Brad, a Chad, and some others I don’t recall.
What does this have to do with anything you ask? Where is she going with this?! Let me tell you…. These little dudes took on a life of their own. We started taking pictures of them having all sorts of adventures, and a hilarious group text thread was born. They went hiking, they went out for cocktails, they went on vacation, to the pumpkin patch, and plenty of AHU conferences. And in between our photo antics with these little toys, we’d share our challenges, frustrations, business questions and achievements with each other. And, a tribe of support and camaraderie was born. That triggered an itch to pay it forward – to share and expand this sense of sisterhood.
I started thinking about how cool it would be to host retreats of some kind to get female leaders together, and right around the same time Stephanie approached me with an idea – what if we hosted a conference focused on female leadership and empowerment? I was ecstatic that I wasn’t the only one dreaming up some way to bottle what we had discovered and share it beyond our small group of lady bosses. That’s what we started calling ourselves, and we also adopted the group nickname sheAHU. Korey Platt even gifted us with adorable #sheAHU water bottles at a planning lunch after VCAHU’s Dream Racer 5k in January of last year.
From the beginning, we were committed to ensuring a collaborative and inclusive approach. I remember saying in a few of our early meetings that we were not in the man-bashing lane, and everyone was thankfully on the same page without hesitation. Once we established our foundational premise, everything else fell into place so smoothly, that it almost felt like a dream. It was a lot of hard work by a lot of dedicated individuals, to be sure. There was so much to coordinate – and not a whole lot of time to do it. But folks stepped up and leaned in. We even created what we now affectionately call the Mars Squad, in homage to Dr. John Gray’s 1992 bestseller, Men are From Mars, Women are From Venus. Forty of the most amazing of our male colleagues readily donated $250 to join, in a statement of support for their female counterparts. We hope they’ll all return in 2020, along with additional members.
We selected the JW Marriott in Las Vegas for the first summit last April and they did such an amazing job for us that we are returning there again this year. We settled on Las Vegas due to location and ease of travel, and deliberately chose a property off The Strip to encourage our attendees to stay at the summit and engage in all the programming we prepared for them. I was deeply honored to deliver one of two keynotes, and will always remember the other during which Becky Patel of LISI stepped in front of the podium and out of her smart pumps to demonstrate that she is small, yet mighty. Yay, I thought – another shorty! We enjoyed many other talks and workshops, delivered by truly incredible women. I learned so much at the summit, as a participant, and am forever grateful that I was part of something so magical.
This year’s summit will be even more so. Jessica Word of Word & Brown has been instrumental in helping us land a group of female powerhouses to headline the program, and we have a great lineup of additional speakers, workshops and networking opportunities. I am so excited to attend, and so is my daughter who will be joining me this time. She saw a note about it on my social media and reached out asking if she could attend. Pinch me again! No, not really – it’s just an expression ok?
In all seriousness… if you’re a female leader – or aspire to be one – don’t miss this summit. We limited attendance last year to 100 but this year we have more capacity, and a hotter program. And men are welcome to attend as well. But… you WILL have to participate in all the activities – maybe even get some lashes done? Hey – we don’t judge at this summit. We just encourage, learn, grow, support, laugh and play. Who’s in?
My heartfelt thanks to our entire planning committee and our support village, without whom this would simply not be possible. Please visit cahu.org for more information, including registration links and cool partnership opportunities.
Cerrina Jensen is an AVP benefits consultant with CoreMark Insurance and the founder of Stellar Stories, a leadership and communication consultancy. Jensen is a longtime executive board member of CAHU, and has been honored with many local, state and national awards for her leadership and consumer advocacy. She’s currently serving as CAHU’s VP of Professional Development, as well as Chair of NAHU’s national Chapter Leadership Development Committee. In 2018, she was appointed by Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones to the CA DOI Licensing Curriculum Board. Jensen is also past president of the Sacramento Association of Health Underwriters.
CAHU Women’s Leadership Summit will be March 25-27 at the JW Marriott Resort & Spa in Las Vegas
More info and registration at www.cahu.org.