Welcome to the Woman of the Week podcast, a weekly discussion that illuminates the unique stories of women leaders who are catalyzing change throughout the life-sciences industry. You can check out all our podcast episodes here.
Quita Highsmith, the vice president and the chief diversity officer at Genentech, has helped set three audacious goals at the company: “fostering belonging within the company’s own walls, advancing inclusive research and health equity in the industry at-large and transforming society through partnerships across healthcare, education and within all communities.”
As a change-maker, advocate, advisor, educator, disruptor, influencer and “company therapist,” Highsmith has embraced her role as chief diversity officer — the first in Genentech’s 46-year history — with gusto and grit.
“Being the chief diversity officer is a challenging role because you have to be so many things,” she says. “I don’t have any formal diversity and inclusion training. I got my experience of being a Black woman, and in living my experience I knew I could help the organization.”
Under Highsmith’s strategic direction, the company launched its first Diversity and Inclusion Annual Report in 2021 — the second edition is due out later this month.
“We are looking for progress, not perfection,” she says. “This is hard work. There are no easy solutions when it comes to how to be more inclusive. Because so many people have been excluded, the reality is at Genentech we need to be transparent, we have to be intentional, we have to be bold — not every company is ready for that journey.”
In this episode, the PharmaVoice 100 details her bold action plan, including a $1 billion commitment to engage with diverse supplier/partners, how she’s shaping Genentech’s approach to addressing health equity starting at the molecular level, and the piece of advice from her mother that has influenced her career and passion for volunteering.
Listen to the podcast or you can also read the transcript of the conversation below.
Welcome to WoW – the Woman of the Week podcast by PharmaVoice powered by Industry Dive.
In this episode, Taren Grom, Editor-in-Chief Emeritus at PharmaVoice, meets with Quita Highsmith, VP Chief Diversity Officer, Genentech.
Taren: Quita, welcome to the WoW podcast program.
Quita: Thanks, Taren, for having me and inviting me to the Woman of the Week.
Taren: Well, you are a woman of the week every week. I can tell you that. The things you are doing out there in the industry are just fantastic, and I’m so glad to be able to catch up with you. The last time we saw each other was, I can’t even imagine ages ago, but we connected for year 2021 PharmaVoice 100 honor. And as Genentech’s first chief diversity officer I know you have been extremely busy, moving forward the company’s mission over the last couple of years to build a diverse workforce. Can you catch me up on some of the things that you’re doing from an enterprise strategic initiative approach?
Quita: Yes. We have been very excited about the work that we have been doing at Genentech. And last year, we actually launched, for the first time, our diversity and inclusion annual report, and the second version of that will be coming out at the end of March, and we’re excited to share that with the world. This is on our external website. Because in 2021, we made some 2025 commitments.
For us at Genentech, we have three areas of focus. One, foster belonging. Two, advancing inclusive research and health equity, which is near and dear to my heart, and then transforming society. So for us, what we did in 2021, when we launched our annual report of these commitments, we put them out there so that the external world could see what we were doing, keep us honest, and we wanted to be very transparent because there’s a lot of work to be done. For us, we have a commitment under foster belonging, we want a double Black and Hispanic representation of directors and officers and extended leadership.
At Genentech in San Francisco, we have a large Asian workforce, but that Asian workforce is not necessarily translating into leadership. And so, we really believe that we have an opportunity to mirror Asian representation of directors and officers to individual contributors. And while more than 50% of Genentech’s workforce is women and our officer and director population is at the 50/50 mark, we still have some gender representation opportunities that we want to address – scientific researchers, medical directors, engineers. So we still want to double down in areas where we need to around gender.
And then advancing inclusive research – this is the heart of the business – research. And so, for us, we’ve made two commitments: all of our molecule teams will include population-specific assessments and research action plans. And we want Genentech to be the partner of choice in advancing health equity. Many people know that Genentech founded the biotech industry and so, we see it as a responsibility to really take a deep dive and to advance in health equity.
And then, finally, under transform society, which is our third pillar, we want to commit one billion dollars to external suppliers that we consider diverse being Black, Native American, Veteran, LGBTQ, because we know that the economic power to transform the world is very important.
And then finally, we have an initiative that we like to call Kindergarten to Careers. And that’s really where we think about who’s the next generation of scientists, who’s the next generation of physicians and how can Genentech play a role in elevating more diversity into the sciences.
Taren: Wow, holy smokes, a billion dollars, health equity, kindergarten to career. So you got a few things going on there.
Quita: We have a few things going on.
Taren: So let’s talk. Let’s break it down a little bit because that was a lot – that’s a lot in that suitcase to unpack, if you don’t mind. The first thing I have to ask you about is, how do you define health equity? Because I think that’s a term that’s gets bandied around in the industry right now. It’s a hot topic and there’s a little bit of a different nuance definition for everybody. So how do you define health equity?
Quita: I think when we think about health equity at Genentech, we believe in a world where all individuals have access to the best quality healthcare and a future of science that is more diverse, that is more inclusive, and that is more equitable. The pandemic has elevated the need for us to focus on health equity. We saw during the beginning of the pandemic who had access and certainly, I believe this is an urgent issue in our system. Because Black, Latin-X, LGBTQ, other marginalized groups, they suffered more during the pandemic and the pandemic laid open that there is not equity in the system. And so, we have to be thinking about one of those root causes from social determinants of health, to distrust in the system because the system has historically been harmful to certain groups, and we think about the lack of diversity in the STEM and medical workforce.
I think the other thing that we have to be very careful of, Taren, is we cannot blame patients of color for being concerned about the system and we have to have some real issues. It is not just doing things differently; it is doing different things and is the healthcare system treating everyone like they would treat their own mother. And I think the thing that we have to realize is if you have great healthcare insurance, then life is great for you. But if you don’t, if you’ve been historically marginalized and you don’t have access to medical benefits or you might have very high co-pays, or you don’t have access to fresh foods, there ain’t no Whole Foods in your neighborhood, or you live in a redline neighborhood without a pharmacist, without good transportation, without physicians, without pay time off, then the financial burden for these patients is higher and we really have to begin to think about how do we build equity so people can get treated for illness.
Taren: I couldn’t agree with you more. I think the thing I hear all the time is we’re all in the same boat and no, we’re all in the same ocean because some of us are on yachts and some of us are on life rafts. So, we’re not all on the same boat.
Quita: That’s good. I am going to take that and use that. I like that analogy.
Taren: Right, we’re all in the same ocean but we’re not at all on the same boat. So I think that what you just said is exactly that. And then the other term that I keep hearing about is health equality. I think there is a difference between health equality and health equity, isn’t there?
Quita: Yes. When you think about equality – equality means everybody gets something equal. And that might be good, like if you get to equally go to the doctor or you did equally go to the hospital, but the challenges you might have equal access, but if you can’t afford it. Or if the facility is very far out of your reach. Anybody could go to a hospital, but if you don’t have any transportation and you can’t get there because it’s not local to your community, then yes, you have equality, but you don’t have equity.
Taren: Absolutely. And so, I think those are two very clear distinctions. Sometimes those terms get used interchangeably. And I think I always say that words matter and we have to be careful about how we label things. So, thank you for that. I appreciate that. You talked about a billion dollars. That’s not just chump change now.
Quita: That’s right.
Taren: We’re talking about a serious commitment by the company. And you’re working obviously, with your peers within the organization. How did you come up with that number? How do you see it going to be used going forward?
Quita: I think for us, one of the things that I think is so important is how do you spend your resources? And so for us, thinking about, if we wanted to make a real difference in society, if we want to make a real difference, then the investment that we need to make in these other businesses because so many times smaller businesses, businesses that have an owner that is Black or Hispanic or LGBTQ they often don’t get their seat at the table. And so it is important for us to be diversifying how we spend our resources. So that more people can have that chance to work with a big company like Genentech. And if you have a chance to work with one big company, then that’s the domino effect. Because then the next company says, ‘oh, well you were able to work and secure the Genentech business,’ then, it’s almost a stamp of approval, for them to take their business to the next level.
And so for us, it was really important, especially with the backdrop of the pandemic and we knew that small businesses were hurting during the pandemic that we wanted to say what can we do, how can we extend an olive branch; as well as we needed to diversify who was helping us with the needs that we have because COVID was taking a lot of businesses down. And so, we didn’t want to have all of our eggs in one basket either.
So I’m super excited that we could commit a significant amount to our supplier community and allows us to have a more representative pool of suppliers that we can work with.
Taren: And that in itself would have a domino effect too. Because if you’re bringing in that kind of diversity of partnerships that leaks then through to who works for those people, who work with them through their families, through all communities.
Taren: It becomes a holistic blanket to move it forward. And you talk to about the research part of this, and that’s going down to the molecular level. So that is also so critical and as we look at drug development for the last forever, drugs have been developed for middle-aged white men. So here we are at this precipice of being able to change that paradigm. And I hate to use all those buzzwords all in one sentence, but that’s really where we are.
Quita: Absolutely, absolutely. For me, I’ve been working on this since 2017. So a game changing moment was before I accepted the chief diversity officer position, I was leading Genentech Alliance and Advocacy Relations team. And we were planning organization wide patient advocacy summit, and I wanted to have some patients of color that have participated on our clinical research. And at the time, we could not find not even one patient, not one. And so then, I began to ask why. And I think, Taren, to your point about the majority of clinical trials are filled with white patients.
And so, we’re talking about 85% to 90% – now this was a few years ago, 2017 when I started to really look at this. And that led me and a colleague, Nicole Richie who was a PharmaVoice 100, to co-found Genentech advancing inclusive research, which is our initiative to address barriers to participation for racial and ethnic underrepresented groups. And we are having a lot of success. One of the reasons why is because first of all, you got to identify a problem to fix it. So that’s step one, we identified a problem. Step two is we have to really think about if we want to recruit a more representative population then we have to begin to prioritize it in the clinical development programs. We have to be thinking about how do we enhance these populations? What are the potential barriers? Like, look at the inclusion/exclusion protocol and see if there are barriers in there. How do we build coalitions with communities of color? Because they haven’t traditionally trusted the system, the healthcare system. So how do we build an opportunity to build some trust?
And then we really have to think about the reward system because, so many times industry is rewarded on first patient in, but really that’s the false reward. It should really be rewarded on the last patient in and I say that because, when you reward our first patient in that means, you got to go to the same old places that you know over and over again, that can immediately get your study up and running. So then you’re not willing to potentially go to Oakland, go to a Jamaica Queens, go to Southeast D.C. to do a clinical study. But if you think more broadly and celebrate the last patient into the study, then you can really celebrate and you can have more patients. And we did this on a study called EMPACTA, which was looking at COVID-19 pneumonia, 85% of studied participants in that study came from communities of color, Navajo Nation, Black, Hispanic. We went to Kenya and Africa, Brazil, Mexico, and we were able to do that because one, we were determined to really say, who is COVID-19 impacting and ensured that we have representation in the study. But we also, was able to enroll that study fast because we have more types of patients to choose from. So I’m super excited about the results that we’re getting around advancing inclusive research.
Taren: I know that’s been a project of yours that has been on your top burner for quite some time. So I think it’s fantastic. I’m so impressed by what you’ve been able to accomplish in a really short amount of time, when you think about how the inroad you had to make and how you get this program up and running and you’re already starting to see results. Talk about determination, Quita, wowza.
Quita: I will say that just for your audience, I do not have a research background. I do not have any kind of MD or PhD in my background. And at the time, when we started to work on advancing inclusive research to make this an initiative, there were several times when people were like, you’re not in medical. You shouldn’t be interfering in this, that in a third and I say to the audience, anybody can raise their hand from any seat and make a difference. It was several times where I would go get fired, but I was very determined because I knew I was on the right side of history. And I was okay if it didn’t work out for me at Genentech. But you know what, we persevered. We help the organization see the value and now the business impact is there. I would just encourage folks to be a change maker. Stand up, actively fight for what you believe is right.
Taren: Absolutely. And yes, you are a change maker and yes, you are a difference maker and yes, you are going to be on the right side of history and raising your hand is so important. And when you talk about something, that is so passionate and you have such a passion for, it becomes a life purpose and that you’re a purpose-driven leader. So it certainly comes through and you talk about advancing the science in such a way and it does have a business impact. DE&I is not a nice to have anymore. This is not just fluff talk and it used to be something that was cut from the budgets back in the day, when this purse strings had to be tightened up. And that’s no longer the case, which is an awesome thing. But there’s still a lot, more work to be done. So, you’ve just started to chip away at the iceberg. And so you’ll keep going, I know.
So speaking of which, with all the stuff that you have going on, all those balls there, what are your key strategic objectives for 2022?
Quita: For us our key strategic objective is we’ve got to hit our 2025 commitments. Like we put these out in the marketplace and so I will say, we are making progress and I’m very excited for our second edition of the annual report to come out. But I think also, key to us is, we’ve got to invest in succession development. We want to be thinking about the talent that we have here. How do we continue, because I think retention, I mean the other thing this pandemic is teaching us is that people are really, they have choices. And so, we want to make sure that we’re advancing our internal talent that we want to be able to give them stretch assignments and leadership opportunities. And so retention for us is very important, but we also want to be thinking about how do we attract under representative populations to Genentech, so they can see that it’s a great place to work?
Last year, we started the first in its industry advancing inclusive research site alliance where we’re looking at sites that could do anywhere from our very early research phase 1 through post-marketing and we launched with four sites in diverse areas in Memphis, in Birmingham, Alabama, in San Antonio, Texas and in LA. And we want to expand this network of sites that could do clinical research with communities of color.
And then we’re very proud that in the kindergarten to careers last year, we saw significant increases in both employees and interns, who identify as Black or Hispanic, as well as postdoc opportunities. We saw a significant increase with our postdocs. And so, I’m super excited about these early in career opportunities and I want Genentech to continue to double down on those.
And then the last thing that we’ve done that is I think, really been impactful as one of our key strategic initiative is that we have asked all of our officers, so these are all vice presidents at the company. Every vice president of the company has what we call an office or action plan. And one of the things that as people think about things to do, and I want to give you the blueprint. Because people say, ‘well, I want to do something. I want to work on diversity inclusion.’ But so many times people don’t know where to start. And so, what we did last year was under our three pillars we gave officers 10 different actions that they could choose from. And so, it was like a total of 30 actions and we said pick a minimum of two but no more than five. Because you got to be focused and this thing went over so well because people actually had vetted opportunities that they could select to enhance diversity and inclusion.
The other thing that we did was we posted all of their plans on our intranet meaning, that any internal employee and we have more than 13,000 employees, any internal employee could take a look to see what were the plans that potentially their department head set that they were going to do on diversity and inclusion. And that type of accountability has gone a long way in us embracing our efforts to make real change.
Taren: It’s a hell of a blueprint that is and not only that, but then you can measure against it.
Quita: You can measure against it. You know how many people selected what item? We know if it’s working, if it’s not working and so, like I would say to the audience, if you’re thinking about something like this, you’ve got to teach people to fish. And once you do then folks know what to do and then we’re all moving in the same direction and really, we’ve got some tremendous synergy with our action plans.
Taren: That’s amazing. And yeah, once you teach one person to fish and they teach the next person to fish and now it becomes this huge ripple effect. You talked to a couple of things there, one of which was talent and the retention of talent. You’ve seen the studies just as I have and that how many women are leaving the workforce because of the pandemic or the people who are coming back into the workforce is overwhelmingly male and not women. They’re not coming back in the same numbers. What can we do as an industry? Is there anything we can do to retain more women because it’s vitally important?
Quita: Absolutely. I think one of the things that the pandemic has shown us is that we can get work done virtually. And so previously, everybody had to come, in our case, to San Francisco to live in order to work. And what we have found is that we can work from our home environment. I know that many folks men and women, appreciate that they don’t have to have to commute. That they can take meetings at home. They can kind of multitask and do you things that they need to do at home as well. And so, I do think, how do we continue to keep the aspects of the virtual environment that have been working as well as I also think that the pandemic, the boxes that we sit on the Zoom calls, et cetera, I think they equalize us to a certain extent. Like when you would go to the meeting it was like the big boss, they sat in that chair and so everybody knew that was the big boss they sat in that chair. Whereas, in the boxes of the Zoom we’re all equal.
And so anybody can raise an idea and have an opinion and I do appreciate that fact. Because then it allows all of our roles to be heard and to be seen. The other thing though I will say about the pandemic and sitting in the Zoom boxes is one of the watch outs is, people can be working from sunup to sundown. Because there’s a little bit of, well you don’t have anywhere to go. Well, I’m still busy. I still have my family, our personal life. I still have a life. And so, I do think the caution that we have around kind of virtual work, because I do think virtual environment is very helpful for women, is that we don’t over schedule in this environment. Because then I do think that we will lose people as well. So I think thinking about how do we do work differently is going to be important.
Taren: I think it goes back to what you said earlier, nothing’s differently, but we have to do different. So I like that. Yes, I agree with you. I think Zoom has become the great equalizer. There is no hierarchy in Zoom, we’re all the same size and the same box. And, I’m not sitting at the head of the Zoom table. I’m in the Zoom table.
Quita: Right, exactly.
Taren: So, another piece of what you talked about was those areas that you’re looking into one of which was LA. And I had a conversation with a gentleman who is the head of biocom and he talked about LA becoming a biotech center of excellence and I thought what an opportunity to go into neighborhoods and talked about diversity and it has those great academic centers. It’s got the entrepreneurial spirit. So this could really become a real big thing. Let’s see if LA can rival Boston in someday. Wouldn’t that be something? That would be awesome.
Quita: Right and especially for research, because there are so many racial and ethnic groups in and around LA that as we think, and as this industry moves towards genomics and ancestry types of studies really, being surrounded by a wealth of folks that have different background is going to be so important for the research.
Taren: Agreed. So I’m excited to see what happens in those areas that you have identified as well. If I could take a moment now to just brag about you for a moment, please indulge me. In 2021, you were named the Inspire Award winner by San Francisco Business Times. You’re honored as the Inaugural Visionary Award winner by Women of Color in Pharma, which is WOCIP. You are named a PharmaVOICE 100 again and selected as a top 15 champions diversity by Diversity of Global Magazine. You also are routinely requested to address members of Congress, speak at national and international forums and you give media interviews with both large and small outlets. What does this all mean to you? How are you managing all this media of attention? And by the way, congratulations all so well-deserved.
Quita: Thanks, Taren. I think for me, what I am grateful for and I think one of the things that you said earlier is I feel like I am living my life’s purpose to address expanding clinical research to include underrepresented populations. And so, I’m excited that people want to hear and learn and so, all of these awards, I mean really kind of humbling. Because I’m like just doing what makes me happy. So I don’t need to be rewarded for it. I think that in this job, everybody say new. I didn’t do DE&I before like, so being the chief diversity officer, it’s really a challenging role because you have to be so many things. You have to be a change-maker, an advocate, an advisor, an educator, a disruptor, an influencer, a therapist for the whole company.
I’m excited that we have a chance to tell our story and no one company, no one person can really eliminate health inequities, but we have a chance. And I believe right now, is that time to shine a spotlight on it. And to a certain extent the pandemic, it helped us sit still. Because we couldn’t go to dinner. We couldn’t get on the airplane. We couldn’t do all the things that we were running to do and we had to sit still and in that stillness, I think we really saw the truth around these inequities. And so, I believe that right now is the time for us to be bold, to make change. This is our 1960s and this issue is the issue at hand and that is how do we eliminate health inequities, so that all people who need healthcare and need solutions are invited in to get their situation resolved.
Taren: I agree with you a million percent. I know that’s not a real number, but I often hear this phrase to getting back to normal and I’m like, “no, why would we ever want to go back to normal?” We have this opportunity, this unique times you said to be extraordinary in this industry.
Taren: And we should not squander this opportunity. So I love that. You were one of the first chief diversity officers to be named by a major pharma or biotechnology company. And now we’re seeing that title pop up more and more, which I would hope is rewarding to you because you kind of paved the way. Do you have conversations with some of your other peers in those positions at other companies? Are you hearing from them?
Quita: All the time.
Taren: Good, you all can have your own therapy sessions, right?
Quita: We do, we do all the time. So I was the first chief diversity officer appointed at Genentech in our 46-year history. And some people would be like, “oh, well, maybe down the road they won’t need a chief diversity officer.” That is not gonna happen. You budget what you value, you inspect what you expect and we are talking about in this country, a 400-year-old issue and two or three years of having a chief diversity officer ain’t gonna solve it. And so, we really have to be mindful.
The one thing that I will say is, we are just looking for progress, not perfection. This is hard work. There are no easy solutions when it comes to how do we be more inclusive. Because so many people have been excluded, and the reality is that it takes, we have to be transparent. We have to be intentional. We have to be bold and not everybody is ready for that journey. But what we have to do is we have to make real change and that starts in our own house. I always say to our team, real change starts at home.
So what are we doing at Genentech to make a real difference? And once we identify some things that are working at Genentech then we have to share them. Because we’re all on this journey and it won’t do us any good if people are holding on and not sharing those tools that are working. So I talked to other two diversity officers practically every day.
Taren: That’s amazing and I’m glad because that is a community that is so important. You talked about Genentech and the culture and you’ve been there for almost 12 years.
Taren: And in today’s world, that’s a lifetime. So what is it about the culture that has kept you with that company? Because you could work anywhere, Quita, let’s face it.
Quita: I think for me, I’ve been very, very fortunate to be at Genentech. And so a lot of it, it’s like I’m the fixer. And so, when I came to Genentech in 2010, they were having a launch that wasn’t going well. I was able to really from the beginning, say the strategy is not right. And then we were able to turn that around. Then I went to become a franchise head from one of our sales and marketing teams. Again, strategy was up and so, I was like that strategy is not right. I was able to do that. Then I went into alliance and advocacy relations and really started to think about how can we have more greater patient involvement within the organization and then now here. And what I have found to be so valuable about Genentech is one, they have always led me exist as my full authentic self.
And so, I believe that that has been critical because I am surrounded by people who show up every day as their authentic self. And when we could be who we are, bring our strengths to the table, then you are really making magic. So, I’m excited about the people that I’ve been around, I believe that some of the greatest minds in this industry are at Genentech working to solve issues to improve patient lives and I have just been given a platform to raise my hand and challenge the status quo. And I believe that that is very important because if you don’t have a chance to challenge the status quo, and everybody has to act alike, think alike, look alike, and be an echo chamber, then you won’t have the best thinking. And so, I just have appreciated the open-mindedness of the organization and being accepted for just who I am.
Taren: Definitely a change maker and so Genentech is lucky to have you. But with all that comes a certain level of responsibility. You are a role model out there now. And what does that mean to you? I mean, you have to carry the mantle. It’s something else you had to put in your backpack.
Quita: For me, my very presence at Genentech creates possibilities because I’m my authentic self, and that gives others in the organization a chance to say ‘I can fit in. I can be successful. I can exist as who I am and bring my real self to the table,’ and that’s what I want; I want us to all belong. Because the opposite of belonging is fitting in. I want people to be their authentic selves and then they know that they can rise to the top. I’ve been very fortunate to be able to do things my own way. I want others to know that you too can do things to your own way, and be brave about it, take the risk. Nothing bad is going to happen. Look at me.
Taren: They say that fortune favors the prepared. So you may have been fortunate, but you also were very prepared. You’re very smart. You didn’t get where you got to by luck. You worked hard and you’ve got the chops against it. So nothing like this happens by accident. Taking all that in, but you’ve achieved a great amount of success. What advice can you share to other women? I know you said raise your hand, be prepared, but there have to be some practical things too that you have done to advance to the C-suite. What are some of those things you can share?
Quita: I think for me personally, what I will share is, you have got to be visible. I do believe this in my course. So many times women are waiting to get tapped, waiting for somebody to notice us and the reality is the squeaky wheel gets oiled. And so, I say we have to raise our hand and we have to go for roles that maybe we say, well, you know what? I’m not qualified for it, right? Like I mean, I don’t have any formal diversity and inclusion training. I got my experience of being a Black woman, my lived experience, but I knew I could help the organization. I felt I was the best one because I knew the organization. I know strategy. And so, I would say, raise your hands and I’ve raised my hand for other roles and I did not get them. But it put the company on notice that I was interested in doing more. I felt that I could bring more value to the organization.
So the one thing that I would say is, raise your hand, volunteer, step outside of your comfort zone, and don’t be afraid to fail.
Taren: I love it. Along that way, did you have mentors? Did you have somebody who was a sponsor for you as well? How did those relationships help you?
Quita: I have had plenty of mentors and sponsors, and I can just share, they have been very valuable. I’m just going to give you an example. So I had a white male who was my sponsor, and we had a great relationship, and I was interviewing for this role and I did terrible. You know how you know that when you do bad on the interview, like I knew I did bad. And I was like me and the person, we weren’t vibing, it just fell flat, this, that and the third. I told him that night I said, “the interview didn’t go as well as I wanted.” And he was like, “well ask for a do over.” And I was like, “a what?” He was like, “ask for a second interview.” I’m like, “can you do that? Can you ask for a do over?” He was, “absolutely! Do it.” I asked for the do over and I got the job.
So like having a mentor and they’re giving you ideas that you would never even think of. And now I tell people that story because we’ve all may not have done great on an interview, but ask for the do over.
Taren: That is awesome. That is a great piece of advice. I think everybody should put that right into their tool kit. Because you know what, the worst thing that could happen is they say no.
Quita: The worst thing that can happen is say no. I know several people who have done this and every time they have been told yes.
Taren: Well, because they’re probably the other person is like, ‘you want to what? Okay.’
Taren: I think that is a great piece of leadership advice. That is fantastic. And finally – because our time is sadly coming to a close here because I could talk to you for another hour and a half – Tell me about an accomplishment or a wow moment that either shaped your career or changed the trajectory of your career.
Quita: I would say for me, my mother used to have a saying and it was, too much that has been given much is expected. I think I have always been a volunteer. So even when I was a very young girl, because my mother would say this to me – and I was a Red Cross candy striper, a Girl Scout, I volunteered at my church, and so being able to help others and volunteer – so I sit on a couple of nonprofit boards because I want to give back. And so I do think that early kind of being a volunteer, helping others, it’s carried with me in my soul. And so, I do think I have gravitated towards companies and opportunities where I feel like I can give back and which is partly why I’m in this industry because I do feel like the work that biotech, the pharmaceutical industry does to really make life-changing differences for people is something that is important to me, which is why I’m part of the industry. So I would say being a volunteer is probably been the thing that has shaped – and obviously my mother – my life the most.
Taren: I’m glad you mentioned that because I did want to bring that up, those volunteers and where you sit on those community service boards and you and I have a connection to the Healthcare Business Women’s Association where we serve as leaders. But you are definitely a purpose-driven leader. And so the nonprofits is it Genenpac and then the political action committee.
Quita: Right, and the one that I really love is this Delta San Francisco Foundation because it is where we raised money to give 4-year scholarships to Black girls in the San Francisco-Oakland area that are first generation college students. So these girls would not really have been able to afford to go to college without these scholarships. And to be able to support them for the full four years… just the notes that they send is just so gratifying and that the opportunity – one of them has gone on to become a medical doctor and it’s really… I mean, that just makes me so happy.
Taren: You just gave me chills. I mean, that’s the piece of it that all the hard work, the time, everything is worth those moments because you’re changing somebody’s life.
Quita: Oh my gosh, and then they’re going to change somebody else’s life.
Taren: And that ripple effect is just amazing. So change maker, transformative leader that you are, thank you for what you’re doing for the industry and changing the industry for the better. I want to wish you continued great success and I know you’ll have it. I look forward to seeing what 2022 does and then you will achieve your goals in 2025. There’s no doubt in my mind.
Quita: Yes, I’m counting on it. Thanks, Taren. Thanks for having me.
Thanks for listening to this episode of WoW – the Woman of the Week podcast. For more Wow episodes visit pharmavoice.com.