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.
La Jolla, CA, USA
What is your current role? Briefly describe in 1-2 sentences.
I am the founder and president of Corsaire Corporation, a Black-woman-owned small business tailored to clients in the life sciences sector.
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?
I can only hope that the term “Embrace Equity” is not just a platitude but rather a sentiment that takes root and drives individuals to acknowledge that differences exist, and such differences require different levels and types of resources, needs and/or opportunities.
Organizations can embrace equity first by acknowledging that, due to historic systems and current mechanisms of oppression, not everyone is starting from the same place. Organizations can embrace inclusion by fostering a sense of belonging among people of different backgrounds, valuing their experiences and identities, and welcoming everyone equitably as decision-makers.
While there can be a strong financial return on investment when you achieve a workplace that values equity and inclusion, striving for that goal also comes with costs in terms of time, energy, and resources. Organizations that want to be more equitable and inclusive should set priorities, revise processes, and/or adjust targets as needed. The reality is, though, that it is very difficult to quantify all the ways that equity initiatives increase productivity, improve retention, attract better talent, help build better products, and connect you with customers. And frankly, some equity initiatives will result in no additional profit—but that doesn’t mean they aren’t worth doing. If an executive team is convinced that embracing equity can be a critical strategic initiative only if it drives revenue or saves money, or if the executive team doesn’t actively champion the work via financial investment, it’s very difficult to make tangible progress.
Do you have any mentors or role models who have helped you on your personal journey?
There have been many times in the formative years of my career when I stumbled. I found out later—sometimes much later—that Kathryn West, a legend in the oncology advocacy world, had reached out to provide silent assistance. What you do as a mentor or role-model when you see that your mentee’s career may be is “stalled” on the way up may be far more important. Kathryn actively monitored my career progression and intervened, without my knowledge, where appropriate and necessary, to ensure that my “stumbles” did not become “derailers.” I miss her every day.
What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
If you don’t like the rules of the game, you have three choices: be unhappy playing the game—even if you’re good at it; change games; or move up the ranks, become the commissioner, and change the rules.
The past few years have brought many new and unprecedented challenges. What keeps you motivated or inspires you to stay optimistic?
It’s laughter—I stay motivated by finding a way to have fun and laugh as much as possible. One of my mantras is: Take your work seriously, but not yourself.
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?
Press releases and public statements touting equity and inclusion are akin to thoughts and prayers for change. As a Black business owner with a company mission to illuminate paths to healthcare access for members of marginalized communities, I’ve learned that corporate America may not always make good on its pledges. Prioritizing social impact is only meaningful if we materialize such commitments and drive actual measurable change.
I’ve found that, as a consultant working in corporate America and the pharmaceutical industry specifically, my opportunity to make an impact in this arena is unique. My organization helps companies navigate the pharmaceutical value chain. In doing so, we can simultaneously help our clients consider business factors through the four types of social impact: clear, high, wide, and deep. Further, we suggest deliberate initiatives they can enact while advancing their business goals. For example, in order to address the long-standing challenges presented and created by the underrepresentation of various racial groups in clinical trials, the DEPICT Act requires drug companies to submit diversity action plans for registrational trials. Access to life-changing therapies for all communities is too important for this legislation to fail in its overarching purposes. Therefore, each time we work together with our clients to understand the unique circumstances and needs of different consumer groups and find ways to address such differences in an ethical and meaningful way, we help that company reach tangible business goals while taking steps towards equity and ultimately towards equal access to health care.
If you could describe yourself in one word what would that be and why?
Enigmatic. I once had a colleague who said I am the definition of Bushnell’s Law: easy to learn and difficult to master.
Do you have any unique or useful life hacks to help get through your day?
Because my business is client services, I have to plan my day knowing that one of my clients might have an emergency that I need to help resolve. So I keep a few hours on my calendar each day free for that. Should an emergency or unexpected critical task present itself, I don’t have to juggle my schedule or work extended hours to handle it. And if nothing else takes precedence, I have time to get ahead on my work or make progress on a personal initiative.
Do you have any go-to apps or tools use love to use?
No, I am a bit of a technology Luddite. And sometimes a pencil and a notebook are really all you need to get a lot accomplished.
What are you looking forward to this year? Are there any goals (personal or professional), activities, or experiences you are excited about?
On the personal front, I set a goal to treat myself in 2023 to a concert or performance at least once a month. I am ahead of schedule and have been able to see some amazing artists already; what’s more, I have some exciting big-name events I am looking forward to. See you in June, Lizzo!