As part of our ‘Female Leaders: Inspiring Together’ series, we interviewed Elizabeth A Crocker – Chief Executive Officer & Data Protection Officer at CLEWS Medical Limited – about her career journey from her early days as a nurse, to owning her own business to now leading the commercial direction of a Med Tech startup.


Thanks for taking part in this campaign, please could you tell us a bit about your current role and the company you work for?

My current role is Chief Executive Officer, Data Protection Officer and Board Director of a Med Tech startup company in the UK. I am also the director of my own consulting company. Leading a start-up is always challenging, but with a great vision and mission, very satisfying. I was brought in to lead the business strategy and commercial modelling ahead of seeking external capital funding. The company itself is using proven PPG technology but using it differently to automate the calculation and transmission of early warning scores and create a global system of detecting the onset or deterioration of acute medical problems. In a nutshell, it’s going to be digital triage in real-time and it will enable anyone who is using it to make decisions about the right care, at the right time, at the right place. While the technology itself is not new, it’s how we’re going to use and deploy it in a single device to take these readings and transmit them as an early warning score that makes it unique.


What inspired you initially to begin a career in the medical industry or technology industry?

I’m a nurse by profession and my clinical background is everything to do with improving patient care and health outcomes. When I left clinical practice in 1986, I first went into business on my own, setting up a company in the United States that was the first of its kind in terms of using electronic records, doing case management, using outcomes, measurements and making it all electronic. I had over 400 doctors that were consultants and about 75 employees. Now, my career has evolved into anything health care related. Technology is a natural extension of improving patient care. I’ve been involved in various types of technology companies as an advisor, consultant and officer/director. When someone brings an idea to me, I really want to know how this is going to have a direct impact on patient care and the outcomes of a patient’s health and improve their quality of life. I am always interested in how humans can use technology to improve their health and wellbeing.


Obviously, you’re a busy person but how do you manage your work-life balance?

“I enjoy working and I’ve been known to be at my desk early in the morning, but I don’t work very late at night anymore. If there are very specific projects going on that require some intense focus, I tend to put the hours in to get them done.”

Generally, not very well. I’ve been working from home for years on and off and I used to go to London quite a bit, but I don’t do that anymore. To create that balance I just get out of the house at least once a day. Whilst I am not travelling now, I used to travel twice a year and I have pets at home and a couple of horses that I go see. I enjoy working and I’ve been known to be at my desk early in the morning, but I don’t work very late at night anymore. If there are very specific projects going on that require some intense focus, I tend to put the hours in to get them done. I’d prefer to work much earlier in the morning when my brain is more active, but I am not an obsessive worker. Generally speaking, I have fun at work, but it’s not something I need to do 24/7 and that’s something I will not do.


What is the biggest accomplishment you are most proud of?

From a professional point of view, the biggest accomplishment is the company that I started in the United States back in the late 80s and within three years I was approached to sell it. I was approached by a lot of companies and I wound up selling it, but I sold it off in two different divisions. I sold the operating business first and sold the database business a few years later. Because of the way they were sold to publicly traded companies my employees got the benefit of keeping their jobs, getting an increase in pay and very good pension plans (401K) because they became stockholders in the new companies that were publicly traded.  Personally, because I was an elite athlete, I achieved quite a high level of sporting achievement in sailing, ski racing and equestrian sports. My career has always been primarily health care, but my sporting life has always been an important part of my life.


Would you say that you’ve had any barriers during your career and success as a female leader?

No, just the opposite. I know people talk about the problems they have, and they talk about the glass ceiling, but I have never, ever experienced that. First of all, as a nurse, I worked with a lot of doctors and at the time most of them were male, and very few nurses were male. Over time there are a lot more male nurses and female doctors but I don’t think it’ll ever be 50/50, nor should it be. I don’t believe ‘balance’ can be achieved ‘artificially’ but it’s important to get the messaging right when recruiting for any role. In the business world, there is a major lack of women at executive and board level – sometimes I don’t think the companies are acutely aware of this discrepancy and more needs to be done to raise awareness.


I think for some people they feel that they can’t get into senior positions because it is seen as a bit of a male-dominated world. Do you have any advice or words of encouragement for people who want to get to that senior-level as a female?

“I love being a board director and I think it’s a real opportunity to learn and knowledge share. Much more needs to be done to attract women to the board room – in start-ups, SMEs, and public companies.”

It is male-dominated and there’s no question about it. I’ve just been very fortunate. Every board that I’ve served I was the only female, except when I’ve had my own board and I insisted upon having other women. It’s interesting because I’ve encouraged quite a few women to get on boards, and these are really bright women with great jobs, but I can’t seem to encourage them to move on to try out something else. I don’t know the reason for that, but a lot of people do not understand corporate governance and the role of directors.  I don’t think they appreciate the importance of the roles or the influence that they can have on a business. I love being a board director and I think it’s a real opportunity to learn and knowledge share. Much more needs to be done to attract women to the board room – in start-ups, SMEs, and public companies. Women bring a lot to the table – we think differently, we assimilate information differently and we are problem solvers by nature. I have found that many men are very transactional by nature and it shows in the way they conduct business. I do and always will encourage companies to appoint women and I do all I can to reach out to women to consider director roles.


Do you ever suffer from self-doubt and if so, how do you manage that?

Going back to everything I have done, whether I was in school or sports or any career, I always had a lot of self-confidence. I never thought I couldn’t do something, but if I didn’t know enough about it, I gave it a try and I managed to get it done. If I didn’t know something, I learned it. I also know what I don’t know, which is a good trait to have because I’m not afraid to ask questions and I’m not afraid to say I don’t know the answer, not at all.


What’s the best advice that you’ve received that you could pass on?

I always remember my father who lived by the rules to be honest and treat customers like they’re the only person in the world. Give them your full attention. My dad was a successful businessman – a great listener too!


What women or what woman has inspired you the most?

There are three: Maya Angelou, Michelle Obama and Oprah Winfrey. They are strong, determined, sensitive, good listeners, with powerful voices.


Our ‘Female Leaders: Inspiring Together’ series is running throughout March with the aim of inspiring and supporting women to become future leaders in their respective industries. Follow us on LinkedIn to join the conversation and hear the insightful stories of our featured female leaders.