Pledge 1%'s #WomenWhoLead series celebrates female leaders who are paving the way for the next generation. While our featured leaders come from a variety of backgrounds and industries, they are united in their efforts to promote equality for all women in the workplace. We’ve asked them to share a bit about their journey to success, as well as lessons they’ve learned along the way.
What is your current role? Briefly describe in 1-2 sentences.
In my current role as director of social impact at all-electric, autonomous vehicle company Cruise, I’m responsible for the overarching vision for Cruise for Good, our signature social impact program, and building this function from the ground up. My role is centered on a product-forward and community-centered approach -- bringing what we do best in the world to address social needs, in close partnership with innovative community organizations and Cruise’s internal business units.
This year's International Women's Day theme is "Embrace Equity." What does this mean to you? How can we build workplaces that are more equitable and inclusive?
To embrace equity, it helps to look at the data. Multiple studies have shown that more women leaders in top corporate management positions correlate with increased profitability for these companies – who wouldn’t want that?
To build equitable companies, we need to recruit, promote and celebrate leaders with diverse perspectives and lived experiences. At Cruise, I’m inspired by my colleague Michele Lee, who leads our accessibility efforts and is also a wheelchair user. In addition to bringing her personal experience, she strategically and systematically pulls in others in the community to ensure our product and future offerings increase access and connection for individuals with disabilities as well.
Do you have any mentors or role models who have helped you on your personal journey?
Many women in my life inspire me, especially my mom and sister. They have navigated many opportunities and obstacles in life with grace all while maintaining a focus on being present for the people around them. I am reminded of Maya Angelou’s quote: “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
The past few years have brought many new and unprecedented challenges. What keeps you motivated or inspires you to stay optimistic?
People inspire me. Whether listening to fellow board members, work colleagues, community leaders, or even my two young sons – the human spirit is possible of overcoming so many challenges. Even in the worst situations, there are examples of people stepping up to serve and help others. When I lived and volunteered in an impoverished town in Ecuador early in my career, I often saw women in one-room cane houses cooking food for others in need, running fundraisers for neighbors needing medical care, or simply looking out for each other. This keeps me optimistic.
Pledge 1% helps companies of all sizes and stages leverage their assets for social good. Why do you think it's important that companies prioritize social impact? Do you have any specific stories or examples from your work or colleagues you can share?
Every company has a choice to make in how they will impact communities, particularly when building something new. From the beginning at Cruise, we’ve been intentional in our approach and vocal about encouraging others in the corporate world - and specifically in the AV industry - to make social impact and sustainability a priority.
Companies that recognize social impact as an asset have a business advantage. When social impact is built into a company – instead of bolted on later – it can directly advance company goals, innovation, and ultimately profitability.
In terms of stories, I recently launched a LinkedIn newsletter called Driving Communities Forward to highlight different social impact and nonprofit leaders. It’s been such a privilege to speak with so many passionate visionaries who are all focused on melding business and impact, as well as hearing about how we can support their endeavors.
My first feature profiled the Aspen Institute's Business and Society Program Associate Director of Leadership Programs, Danielle Holly. Her vision for the future captures why I wanted to start this newsletter to begin with – to shine a light on these important perspectives:
“My hope for the future of philanthropy is that it works in partnership with business, and brings to bear its community knowledge and partnerships to ensure that the individuals whose lives we’re trying to make better are leading the design of the solutions.”
What are you looking forward to this year? Are there any goals (personal or professional), activities, or experiences you are excited about?
This year, I'm looking forward to expanding our Cruise for Good program in line with Cruise's driverless expansion. As we grow our driverless service in new markets like Austin and Phoenix, our Pledge 1% commitment means that at least 1% of our fleet will serve local communities everywhere we go. We've seen so much impact through our meal delivery partnership in San Francisco -- providing 2.3 million meals to neighbors in need and I'm eager to see this impact expanded. Because our approach is grounded in deep community partnership, we’re bringing a community-centered approach to our work, forming trusting partnerships, and continuously improving as we grow. That’s what motivates me - the opportunity to increase our impact for local communities across the country and to innovate while we’re at it.