In CHRISTUS MUGUERZA leadership program, women gain skills, confidence to advance

May 1, 2021

Course is increasing gender diversity in management ranks


About five years ago, executives at the CHRISTUS MUGUERZA system in Mexico saw that women were underrepresented in the leadership ranks of the system and its facilities and that when management opportunities did open up, very few women applied.

Patricia Addarith Magaña Lozano, director of nursing schools for CHRISTUS MUGUERZA-UDEM, is among the several dozen people who have taken part in the system's leadership development program for women.

To better understand that reticence, the system conducted focus groups among female employees. The most respondents — about 50% — said they did not seek out promotions because of self-doubt about their skills. They did not feel entitled to claim a place in a management cadre dominated by men let alone aspire to executive leadership.

The system, which has 11 hospitals, responded by establishing a leadership development program for women with management potential, that includes skill-building workshops, networking and other activities geared to improve their professional and personal skills.

Garza Ghio

Horacio Garza Ghio, chief executive of Monterrey, Mexico-based CHRISTUS MUGUERZA, says, "We are helping them to go deep inside themselves to explore what they are feeling. We said, we need to help them to bring into their own consciousness the feelings that are working against them and look at how to address those feelings and acquire new skills, knowledge and tools."

He says the program called Mujeres Líderes CHRISTUS, which began in 2018, is producing a pipeline of female job candidates who are prepared to pursue opportunities to advance in their careers and then take on management challenges. Mujeres Líderes translates to "Women Leaders."

Accelerating change
According to a June 2020 analysis by the nonprofit consultant Catalyst, while the gender gap has essentially closed in terms of attendance in primary, secondary and post-secondary education in Mexico, women are not experiencing corresponding gains in levels of participation in the workplace. Catalyst says it researches work environments and employees' experiences to understand women's barriers and measure their career success. It tracks women's representation in corporate leadership and determines the root causes of gender gaps.

Consultant Almendra Ramírez de Wisdeen, standing, leads a session of the CHRISTUS MUGUERZA women's leadership program. The June 2019 session was at the health system's corporate office.

The 2020 analysis says 75% of female college graduates in Mexico do not have a paid job in the formal economy. The same report says women hold just 37% of entry level positions at Mexican companies and 10% of executive committee positions. Women are paid on average 18% less than men doing comparable work.

Garza Ghio believes the employment gap is rooted in large part in informal cultural beliefs that men should be the primary breadwinner and women should focus on the home and children. This ethos has influenced hiring and promotion practices in Mexican companies, he says. Garza Ghio says younger generations appear to be more open to women pursuing careers.

Alicia López Romo

Alicia Estela López Romo is an epidemiology system manager at CHRISTUS MUGUERZA who completed the leadership training curriculum. She says cultural attitudes in Mexico have been slow to change. The prevailing attitude is "that if you're married or have a family, you can't do work activities."

López Romo

Garza Ghio says the CHRISTUS MUGUERZA leadership development program is "speeding up the process" of promoting and advancing women's careers by making women more aware of their thinking and how internalizing those hidebound beliefs about a woman's role can hinder professional growth.

Pursuing a vision
Managers at the system headquarters or facilities nominate women with management potential for participation in the program. Women aged 30 to 60 have participated. Between 10 and 13 women take part in the program at a time. Graduates receive a diploma from CHRISTUS MUGUERZA.

Most program presenters are female executives from CHRISTUS MUGUERZA or other Mexican companies. Participants also receive mentoring from their managers and one-on-one job coaching from an outside consultant. Program participants build connections with the other women in their class as well as with the female executives who are guest lecturers.


Participants learn communication skills, strategic thinking, change management and career planning. They are encouraged to talk with one another and with their mentors and coaches about their self-perception, beliefs and attitudes, professional experiences, goals and vision. They also receive advice on how to nurture themselves, such as through relaxation techniques.

The program started with in-person sessions in Monterrey, with some of the participants traveling in from their facility locations around the country. CHRISTUS MUGUERZA switched much of the program to an online format amid the pandemic.

So far, 35 women have graduated from the program. Garza Ghio says CHRISTUS MUGUERZA is exploring ways to expand the reach of the program.

Diverse perspectives
Garza Ghio says because of a concerted effort to promote qualified women to management roles, female representation among system management has increased (see box).

He says CHRISTUS MUGUERZA is benefitting from the perspectives that women bring, particularly since women generally are the health care decision-makers in families.

Muñoz Hernández

Luz del Carmen Muñoz Hernández is a CHRISTUS MUGUERZA integration and innovation manager who graduated from the diploma program in December. She says women generally tend to excel in crisis management and are adaptable to change — valuable attributes given the uncertainty and ambiguity involved in leading health care organizations now.

Better together
In interviews conducted by email with responses translated from Spanish to English, participants spoke about the impact of the leadership training on their career goals.

Elvira Carvajal Sánchez

Since graduating from the course in 2019, Elvira Carvajal Sánchez has advanced from operations manager to hospital administrator for CHRISTUS MUGUERZA Hospital San Nicolás, the top position at that facility. She says taking part in the leadership program "strengthened my push to determine how to keep moving forward, making decisions that keep me active professionally, but ensuring the desired emotional balance."

Acosta Mariño

Maria Patricia Acosta Mariño, who was in the first group of participants, says the women she met in her cohort stay in touch and support one another in their careers. She is the system's manager of biomedical engineering.

Maria Teresa Arana Cavazos, a strategic project manager at the system, says she has formed personal and professional bonds with Acosta Mariño and others in that first class of leadership trainees. She says the time she shared with the women enabled them to establish relationships that remain important today. Arana Cavazos has advanced from human resources manager at the hospital level to strategic project manager at the system.


Claudia Krowicki says her participation in the course last year — she graduated in December — taught her to analyze her feelings, get to know herself better, and see herself in a new way. "It helps you grow by expanding your vision, observing and watching yourself from new points of view." She is the digital transformation manager with the CHRISTUS MUGUERZA corporate office.

Patricia Addarith Magaña Lozano, director of nursing schools for CHRISTUS MUGUERZA-UDEM, says she graduated from the program in 2018 with a better understanding of the value she brings to the nursing school team and the company. "This encouraged me to continue advancing my self-confidence, in truly believing in everything I do."

Ceniceros Guillén

Sandra Ceniceros Guillén, who leads at CHRISTUS MUGUERZA Hospital Conchita, says the self-reflection component of the training enabled her to recognize that "we all have our inner fears that often don't help — (they) just paralyze us."

Sandra García Ortíz is a nursing manager at CHRISTUS MUGUERZA Hospital Reynosa. She says the close relationships she built with her program peers dispelled some of her self-doubts. "I had the perception that they were better than me and that perhaps that place (in leadership) did not belong to me, and when I heard their vulnerable side, I realized that we all came with the same fear and uncertainty. Discovering our humanity, we opened ourselves to receive from each other the teachings and learnings of life."

Sandra Gómez Hernandez, nursing services manager at CHRISTUS MUGUERZA Hospital Alta Especialidad, says the curriculum taught her "to value myself, dedicate time to myself, know me, love me, take care of me and be well."


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