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Melissa Hallada is the state chair of the Illinois chapter of the Women Improving the Strength of the Enterprise business resource group.

Empowering Women and Strengthening the Business

Melissa Hallada has been inspired by women from the start.

She joined Health Care Service Corporation (HCSC) in 2012 to market individual and family health plans about to be offered in the new Affordable Care Act marketplaces — in part because of lessons learned from her mom.

“My mom was a NICU nurse when I was growing up, so I knew how important access to health care is,” says Hallada. “I was really excited about the opportunity to educate people to find coverage for themselves and their families.”

Now a specialty markets program manager at HCSC working on an initiative that helps small businesses purchase and provide health insurance to their employees, Hallada got involved in the women-focused business resource group known as Women Improving the Strength of the Enterprise (WISE) because of women she works with every day.

Her manager at the time was the state chair of the Illinois chapter of WISE, and she invited Hallada to a networking event in 2016.

At HCSC, there is no shortage of women to draw inspiration from. Nearly three quarters of employees are women, and 63% of management positions are held by women.

“I left feeling invigorated,” Hallada says of the event. She joined WISE that year and worked her way through leadership positions until becoming state chair of the Illinois chapter of the group.

The pandemic and working women

The WISE group serves as an important resource of knowledge for the business.

“And it’s an important advantage for HCSC, as women are typically the health care decisionmakers for their families. We can provide a good perspective in the organization,” Hallada says.

The WISE community became even more valuable in 2020, as working women, particularly working mothers, were stretched thin in the new reality of wearing new hats during the transition to remote work because of COVID-19.

Hallada herself had to adjust to working from home while caring for her two children with the support of her husband and mother-in-law.

WISE also adjusted, moving typical in-person events to a virtual platform. The group put on events specifically around the importance of mental health and how to balance work and family responsibilities last year, in addition to honoring Women’s History Month as the group does annually.

“We did a great job of pivoting plans to continue to offer avenues for networking and support for women even with us all being remote and separated,” Hallada says. “It kept us all connected and helped continue to build professional growth for members in this environment.”

To further connect WISE members with one another, the BRG established the Power Pairs Program in 2021. Participants were randomly paired up and encouraged to meet for virtual chats as a way to foster organic relationships in the absence of face-to-face meetings.

And that’s the heart of what WISE is designed to do, Hallada says.

“We’re bringing women together to empower themselves and ultimately make the organization more powerful as well, because we are supported and working together as women at HCSC.”

Health Care Service Corporation, a Mutual Legal Reserve Company.