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Breaking barriers in the supply chain

By Debbie Weitzman, CEO, Pharmaceutical Segment

This Women’s History Month, we’re sharing a variety of leaders’ perspectives on leadership, work culture and the power of diversity. Today, Debbie Weitzman, Cardinal Health’s Pharmaceutical Segment CEO, shines a light on the impact of women leaders in our supply chain operations.

Throughout my career at Cardinal Health, I have had the opportunity to work with and lead teams committed to our essential role in healthcare, particularly within the distribution of pharmaceutical, medical and laboratory products. The work done across our supply chain operations provides a link between manufacturers and pharmacies, hospitals and sites of care and directly improves the lives of people every day. Many of these teams are led by women.

While considered a male-dominated field, Gartner reported in 2022 that women represent 39% of the supply chain workforce, the result of several organizations increasing representation. Cardinal Health has committed to increasing representation of women globally at the manager level and above from 40% to 48% by 2030. Our commitment to gender equality was recently recognized with our inclusion in the 2023 Bloomberg Gender-Equality Index.

As CEO of Cardinal Health’s Pharmaceutical Segment and a member of our executive team – which is 57% female – I work each day to build an environment where our employees feel welcome, seen and heard. And as executive sponsor of Cardinal Health’s Women’s Impact Network – our women's employee resource group (ERG) – I work with a talented group of employee volunteers to advance our goals for gender representation, engagement, equity and allyship.

I’m often asked about my career path in the context of being a woman. Part of my story is that I never had the opportunity to work directly for a female leader, but I have worked with many amazing women, who challenged me and encouraged me to raise my hand and take on new challenges. This serves as my inspiration to continually pay it forward, to help women break down barriers and consider new opportunities, recognizing the power and impact of our diverse perspectives in healthcare.

As we celebrate Women’s History Month, I am honored to share the perspectives of a few of our women supply chain operations executives who are leading while inspiring other women to pursue careers in the healthcare supply chain.

Emily Gallo is senior vice president and general manager of Cardinal Health OptiFreight® Logistics, a leading provider of healthcare logistics. OptiFreight® Logistics manages 20 million shipments annually to 22,000 healthcare provider shipping locations across the continuum of care. Currently, Gallo is leading the business through a critical business transformation, focused on building automated, technology-driven solutions that innovate the way healthcare supply chain leaders optimize their transportation and logistics processes and control shipping spend. 

She has been with Cardinal Health for eight years and is passionate about advancing women’s leadership. She was honored as the company’s 2021 Healthcare Businesswomen’s Association Rising Star and hand-selected to serve on Cardinal Health's Diversity & Inclusion Council. She recently ended her tenure as co-chair of PROUD, Cardinal Health’s LGBTQ+ ERG.

“We have a unique and humbling ability through the healthcare supply chain to directly improve patient care,” Gallo said. “Many women consider careers in medicine in pursuit of mission-driven roles but may not realize how the healthcare supply chain directly impacts access and quality of care for patients and their families every day. We can’t improve our supply chain without diverse voices and ideas – simply, we need to see more women in leadership positions in this space. We are making progress; I’m confident that with more diverse representation at the leadership level in logistics and supply chain, we’ll find our teams are empowered to truly transform the impact we can make.”

Shirley Danner is vice president of operations for medical and pharmaceutical distribution in Puerto Rico, where she leads a team of more than 300 employees servicing Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. With 20 years’ experience in the pharmaceutical industry, Danner has drawn inspiration from her mother, a pharmacist; she admires her mother’s credibility, and the trust and respect she garnered among her colleagues and patients, she said. Danner enjoys working with teams committed to excellence and delivering for our customers and their patients.

She also encourages women to support one another and open more doors to pursue careers in operations and supply chain. She believes that women must show the value of diverse leadership styles for the success of the organization.

“Look for diversity in your staff, believe in yourself and learn as much as possible,” Danner said. “Do not be afraid to implement or recommend an idea you have. A good leader needs to have the character, courage and sensitivity to lead.”

Joan Smith is vice president of operations for the West region of our U.S. medical products distribution network. She is an experienced leader with a passion for operations, currently leading a team of more than 1,700 employees across 12 distribution centers from Texas, north to Kansas and west to Alaska and Hawaii. Her favorite part of the job is connecting with her teammates through Cardinal Health’s mission and ensuring they know how much they’re valued in our organization.

Smith’s career at Cardinal Health spans more than 20 years, giving her experience in various operations and supply chain roles. She acknowledges that it’s possible to serve as an operations leader and still maintain personal balance. Smith encourages women to pursue diverse career experiences, broaden their professional networks and add their voices to the conversation.

“We want to draw more women into operations and supply chain – so we have to create more awareness and emphasize the value of frontline experience for career growth,” she said. “As women start their careers, I believe it’s important to gain skills and knowledge in a variety of areas and be intentional about professional development.”

Mary Byrne is vice president, U.S. Demand and Supply Planning within our Global Products and Supply Chain organization, where she leads planning, inventory optimization and customer planning solutions teams. She joined Cardinal Health five months ago and has an extensive background in global cross-functional team leadership, engineering, operations, research and development, and information technology.

Byrne takes pride in being an innovative and sometimes unconventional people and change leader. She often encourages more women to pursue a career in STEM fields, especially operations and supply chain, because of the fun and empowering opportunities to lead, improve and connect teams across multiple divisions in any organization. 

“As Albert Einstein once said, ‘We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.’ I encourage all women to pursue careers where you can bring different thinking, new perspectives and challenge the norm,” she said. “Bring your creativity to your work and you will inevitably help define a better future for the organization and the next generation.” 

Cardinal Health’s supply chain is a critical link to access for patients and their families and I am proud of our teams’ commitment to their essential role in healthcare. Emily, Joan, Shirley, Mary and their colleagues are truly making an impact and inspiring more women to step up and take on these challenging roles.

Debbie Weitzman is the CEO of the Pharmaceutical Segment at Cardinal Health where she leads pharmaceutical and specialty distribution, pharmaceutical manufacturer services, nuclear pharmacies and radiopharmaceutical manufacturing. Throughout her 17-year career at Cardinal Health, she has served in varying leadership roles across sales and distribution operations. Weitzman has extensive international experience, having served as SVP and GM of Cardinal Health Puerto Rico. She serves on the Board of Directors for the Healthcare Distribution Alliance. She also serves as an independent director for Filtration Group. She serves as the executive sponsor of the Women’s Impact Network at Cardinal Health. 

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Cardinal Health is a distributor of pharmaceuticals, a global manufacturer and distributor of medical and laboratory products, and a provider of performance and data solutions for healthcare facilities. Subscribe to our News Alerts to get all of our latest news.