Women to watch

CHS’ Renee Hodder: Grooming tomorrow’s women leaders

A third of fulltime employees in cyber-related jobs work remotely. That’s a challenge for business leaders forced to instill confidence, give direction and get important work done — all via Zoom meetings, Teams chats and conference calls.

However, despite those modern business realities, Renée Hodder, senior director and business information security officer at Community Health Systems, has managed to shine.

Over the past year, Hodder established a Business Information Security Office within CHS. And in a short period of time, she has forged partnerships and cleared business obstacles through transparency and demonstrating accountability. She is also recognized in and outside of her company as a strong leader and a champion of inspiring other women to step up to the leadership challenge.

For her strong leadership in cybersecurity and her business acumens, Hodder is being honored by her peers as a woman to watch, part of SC Media’s 2023 Women in IT Security program.

Women leaders are vital in any organization, she will tell you. But more importantly they need to be empowered to take on leadership roles, she said.

“I started out in my career as an individual contributor and was trying to lead with a lowercase ‘l’,” Hodder said. “I was driving organizational change.”

She figured out how to chip away at making a difference and make that incremental change a reality. “I’m a big believer that you can lead from whatever seat on the bus you’re on.”

Click here for full coverage of 2023 Women in IT Security.

Her eureka leadership moment came long before the remote work trend when she was pouring a cup of coffee in the breakroom of her then employer.

“A senior leader said, ‘I got your email. Are you open to feedback? I think I can help you improve’,” she recalls. “I was taken aback and said, ‘Of course’.”

That exchanged turned into a mentoring relationship and taught her the value of being open to feedback and fostering professional connections. The experience has informed Hodder and pushed her to offer feedback and support to the next generation of potential women leaders.

To that end, Hodder has formalized mentoring efforts inside and outside of her professional life. One of those efforts includes visiting her local elementary school and talking to children about leadership and cybersecurity.

“The message is understated. I’m a leader and I’m promoting cybersecurity. And I happen to be a woman.”

However, because those breakroom-moments are now rare, Hodder said women leaders need to shift their approach and be more proactive when it comes to fostering mentor-to-mentee relationships.  

“My big thing right now is making sure that we as senior leaders are building that next generation in this remote workforce. There aren’t going to be as many of those breakroom opportunities that I got,” she said. “It has to be purposeful, rather than incidental.”

“Instead of saying, ‘You need to join this networking event,’ say: ‘Come with me to this network event,’” Hodder said.

“Make them accountable... Bringing more women into leadership roles means we have some work to do,” Hodder said.

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