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Women Transforming Health Care: Kristina Leslie

Kristina Leslie, named board chair at Blue Shield of California on Sept. 28, talks about gender and improving the healthcare system

Why health care?

Kristina Leslie Board Chair headshot
Kristina Leslie, board chair of Blue Shield of California

The healthcare system in this country is in crisis. It is neither adequately accessible nor affordable and therefore is not sustainable. More than a third of the California state budget will be spent on health care this year.  I spent seven years serving on the board of a local hospital and saw many of the challenges first hand but not a lot of creative solutions due to resource and scale constraints.  In learning about the board opportunity at Blue Shield, I came to understand the uniqueness of its mission and agenda to truly transform health care. I am proud and inspired to be working to achieve those goals.


How can we/how do you support the next generation of women leaders?

I was blessed to have an extraordinary mentor throughout my career that invested in my development while also understanding my competing pressures as a mother of three young boys. As he did, we all need to meet the next generation of women leaders where they are in both their professional and personal journeys with a willingness to be creative and flexible to advance their careers.  I regularly speak to young women about my journey offering perspective on decisions I made along the way. I am conscious about making it a priority to “pay it forward” for the next generation.


What challenges do we still need to overcome to achieve equality?

Blue Shield is committed to gender equality and can serve as a model to other organizations having achieved gender balance on the board, gender pay equity across the company and having women in more than half our leadership roles. But there is always work to be done. Recognizing and understanding our unconscious bias is critical as it can impact hiring, development, promotion and retention. Also, being willing to think and work creatively with women throughout their careers so they can balance professional and personal priorities will reduce the number of women that feel they need to “opt out” at some point on their professional journey.