I’m genuinely inspired and a little humbled to be here. You know, I’ve been lucky enough to receive a number of accolades over the years, had some successes. I’ve not ever had a reward or an accolade that I’ve received more comments on, ever, in my working life, than this Honorable Mentor Award.
It would be remiss of me not to thank the folks who nominated me. Carol Wells, the president of the HBA San Francisco chapter, and all those who nominated me on behalf of the Genentech Women’s Professional Group. I want to give a shout out to that group. It’s a grassroots organization that has been in place now for about five years and has 1,000 members, which is quite the size. Every year they put on a leadership conference. It’s a whole day event aimed very specifically at leadership for women. This year they had 400 people attend. It really was quite the event. So congratulations to all of you.
I’m the executive sponsor of that group, which you might think has sort of figurehead written all over it. And it’s a bit more than that. And I say that because there is one message for the men in the audience today, and that’s about engagement. So I get engaged with that group all the time. And it was through that group that I originally met the folks from the HBA.
Let me talk a little bit about diversity. I think if you ask most of the people in this room to comment on the concept of diversity, everyone’s subscribed to it. The question is whether or not you do anything about it. I was talking to a couple of the founders of the HBA, outside earlier on, and when they started, there were actually people trying to get in their way. I don’t think that’s the world we live in right now.
We do live in a world where people kind of take the view that if we build it, they’ll come. I have to say when I was a younger manager, that was kind of my view, that as long as I created the right environment, women would advance. And I found that, quite frankly, didn’t work. If you measured the number of women vice presidents at Genentech, it really wasn’t a great success. And as a consequence of that, myself and my leadership team met with the HBA for about 10 or 12months. We sat down, and basically my folks said, “Look, we’re not succeeding. What should we do differently?” And that was the point they introduced us to the … the E.D.G.E. Study, and (many of you all know) the six best practices for advancing women. We put that plan into place in Genentech, and it’s been phenomenally successful, and it’s now the foundation of our broad diversity strategy. So I want to thank the leadership of the HBA for helping us out. So thank you very much indeed.
That brings me to the mentoring side of things. It was interesting. One of the E.D.G.E. best practices was mentoring. Particularly mentoring for younger women leaders, and the value of having a much more senior mentor. They didn’t necessarily have a precise idea as to why that worked, but it seemed to work. The assumption was that at a certain point in careers, women kind of have a potential lack of confidence in their likelihood of succeeding. Interestingly, men are the reverse. And having someone who is more senior as a mentor helps you reassure yourself that success is possible in the long run.
So that was all part of our program. One of the key jobs that the Genentech professional women’s group does it provide an environment for people to discuss their careers, at a point where maybe they’re worrying about their long term success. You know, it’s not coincidence, I guess, but there’s a certain point in women’s careers where business success and seniority unfortunately coincides frequently with starting of a young family, which creates a huge amount of pressure at times in terms of, “Can I do all of this and so it well?,” and in some sense that they’re the only ones going through it. And certainly maybe their boss isn’t going through it, so he is often not the best person to go to. One of the things that the we’ve done is create an environment where people can have those discussions, realize it’s not just them, it’s typical, and there are methods and ways of getting through it.
We’ve also built it into our corporate strategy now that we have much more, I think, visible and usable, flexible working arrangements. We’ve got on ramps and off ramps put in place so other people can get through that part of their life successfully both as a businessperson and as a mother if that happens to be the case. So that was all very valuable, and thanks to the HBA.
And it would be remiss of me not to congratulate our own Rising Star who’s here, Ann Lee-Karlon, PhD, a fabulous leader I met. I met her nine years ago, I think it was, when she was a junior leader. When I met her, she was so obviously very poised and competent and able. So it’s no surprise to me whatsoever that she’s now a vice president in our research and development group. So, Ann, from me, congratulations.
Maybe this isn’t all entirely altruistic; I have three daughters. They’re all in high school. I have a freshman, a junior, and a senior. So we’re in the midst of university apps right now. I’ve just finished reading a book called “Crazy You” which is which is an absolutely fantastic book about the whole application process. It’s very funny; if you’re stuck in it, read the book. Anyway, a consequence of this brings one to think about careers, and it’s made me think about the future of my daughters. I’d like them to grow up in an environment where they can have a successful career in whatever they want they want to progress their lives in. And maybe, who knows, one day they might be members of the HBA as well.
This speech was delivered at the Healthcare Businesswomen’s Association‘s Woman of the Year Luncheon in New York City on May 5, 2011. The speech was broadcast live to Paris, France and San Fransisco, California.
Photo by Claire Allison Photography.