Celebrating our women leadership during Women’s History Month

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At The Floating Hospital, ‘Girlboss’ is not a trend, it’s our history

In an era where women still struggle for workplace equity, women of color are even more challenged, according to a survey by the Building Movement Project (BMP), an organization that advises not-for-profits on activating social change. BMP’s recent national survey of 4,000 non-profit organizations found that racial and gender bias continues to create barriers to career advancement for women of color.

The Floating Hospital, though, is not a place where such walls or ceilings exist.

“We have about three times more women than men on the payroll and many of them have been promoted through the ranks to senior leadership positions,” says The Floating Hospital human resources director, Philip LaRocco. From its chief medical officer to chief financial officer, and women at most director levels—clinic operations, behavioral health, health education and transportation—The Floating Hospital boasts an impressive batting average of women, and women of color, at the helm. Nearly 77% of top leadership is female and 62% are leaders of color.

It’s a model for the clinic that has happened by both accident and design.

“Queens is such a diverse borough in New York City—we try to make sure that patients can identify with someone on staff and that’s happened very organically,” says LaRocco, adding, “Everyone who comes to work for us is mission-driven.”

The Floating Hospital director of community outreach Cynthia Davis is but one of those who came into the organization with such intention.

“I have always been driven to help and assist the community around me, in part because of strong historical role models,” she says. “Standing among those models is [women’s rights activist] Fannie Lou Hamer. When she uttered the now-famous phrase at the ’64 Democratic Convention, ‘I’m sick and tired of being sick and tired,’ it struck within me a call to service.”

In a month that celebrates not only women’s achievements but also their potential, The Floating Hospital CFO Gloria Jackson says she strives to be a role model for other women wanting to break the glass ceiling, especially when it comes to shattering outdated notions of women and power.

“One preconception that I’m up against is that men are better suited for financial roles,” she says. “I don’t feel that gender bias exists as much in the not-for-profit world as the for profit, but it’s there.”

“Working in this role, my hope is that other women—especially younger women starting out in their careers—will know that they deserve a seat at the table,” she said.

pullquotes of cynthia and leticia
pull quotes cynthia and leticia

You’d think gender bias might be an issue for Leticia Gomez in her role as transportation manager, with a fleet of 11 vans and male drivers, but she says she drew her strength from her mother, a Puerto Rican immigrant who taught Gomez to fight for her place.

“My mom always told me ‘you have to represent!’ ” she says. “I learned to be equal from her.”

Through her career, Gomez earned her stripes (literally) and the respect of the all-male staffs she led. She logged more than 27 years in the Army Reserves as a diesel truck mechanic, eventually becoming a Motor Sergeant and senior mechanic, with three deployments under her belt. Simultaneously, she spent more than 30 years working for the MTA, starting as a bus driver in 1989, when few women were in such jobs, and working her way up to being a chief in road operations.

“When I came here [The Floating Hospital], I thought to myself I hope I don’t have to fight with these men, and it was not like that. They were all, ‘Show us what you can do! We’re ready for what you’re going to throw!’ It was awesome,” she said.

For Sreeta Quintana, a balance of male and female bosses has helped her in her role as director of clinic operations.

pull quotes with gloria and sreeta
gloria and sreeta pull quotes

“I am fortunate [they] both trust my skills and instincts and give me the freedom to learn on the job,” she said, adding, “I am surrounded by strong women in managerial positions and we collaborate.” This was particularly the case with the clinic’s move to a new space in Long Island City last summer—a project with a million moving parts under Quintana’s direction, but that came together thanks to her collective. “It was a team effort. Help came from other departments—all women in a position of authority—and they pulled their sleeves up and made the move happen,” Quintana says.

Davis, Gomez, Jackson and Quintana are but just a few of the many and mighty women who do more than just keep The Floating Hospital running: they help keep it steps ahead of its peers when it comes to showing who’s [girl]boss.

—Amy Zavatto

Header image: The Floating Hospital’s female leaders
L-R Gloria Jackson, Chief Financial Officer; Cynthia Davis, Director of Community Outreach; Leticia Gomez, Transportation Manager; Dr. Shani Andre, Chief Medical Officer; Sreeta Quintana, Director of Clinic Operations; Dr. Igda Martinez, Director of Behavioral Health; Linda You, Clinical Projects Manager

Since 1866, The Floating Hospital has been the largest provider of healthcare and education to families living with homelessness. Based in Long Island City, it provides comprehensive primary, dental and behavioral-health services, and health-education to patients living in more than 300 shelters and domestic violence safe houses throughout New York City.

In 2021, The Floating Hospital moved into a new modern main clinic in Long Island City, and continues to support patients in satellite clinics at family homeless shelters and public housing complexes in Queens, Brooklyn and the Bronx.

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