One year into the pandemic, the wave of attacks against the Black American and AAPI communities and the persistence of health inequities and disparities continue.
For some, it took a worldwide health crisis to shine a light on such injustice. For others, it has only served as a stark reminder of the traumatic realities of racism and the resulting inequities in our society.
While the conversation and resulting actions have primarily focused on support and solidarity, if we’re truly focused on the goal of equity, the events of recent weeks reinforce how we as people, companies, employees and citizens need to move beyond the acknowledgment of racial inequity and disparity and focus on the specific policies, decisions and behaviors that will help move us from awareness to reconciliation.
So how do we get there?
Call It by Its Name: The events that we’ve borne witness to are crimes founded in xenophobia and racism that impact the lives of our colleagues, friends, families and communities. By standing in solidarity, supporting the AAPI and BIPOC communities, we need to be honest and authentic about what these acts/events truly are and recognize the importance that language plays in the description/framing of these events and the narratives associated with them. No sugarcoating or diminishing the cause.
Focus on the Context: We must highlight the history of xenophobia against BIPOC communities, such as the AAPI community, and the way disease has been used to denigrate and discriminate…and connect it to the importance of learning/educating ourselves and building cultural competency/attunement – a core element of our pillar.
Cultivate and Drive Empathy: We must ensure psychological safety and facilitate understanding and different forms of engagement…especially today as we continue to work and live in various forms of isolation. Cultivating safety and community in all of the spaces we occupy, including work, has become even more important…and the creation/cultivation of those could help drive empathy and different forms of engagement that can help inform how companies show up vis-a-vis DE&I and work toward their equity goals.
Hold a Mirror Up:Any chance of a significant change must begin with an honest assessment of your personal and organizational tenets, purpose, efficacy, policies and culture. Where is bias or disparity apparent in the business? What are people allowed to get away with? How is respect and dignity and inclusion supported?
With the anniversary of the murder of George Floyd on the horizon and the “great awakening” that dominated our consciousness, we are all being called to dig deep, assess and modify our actions. Ultimately, there are core tenets of DE&I engagement that can help guide and inform, but, in the end, it begins and ends with each of us. It’s not about getting mad or even. It’s really about growing, sharing, listening and respecting each other for who and what we are as human beings.
In the words of Nelson Mandela, “It always seems impossible until it’s done.”
The Biden administration has appointed a record-setting number of women to important positions. Notably, with Kamala Harris’s ascension from U.S. senator to vice president, she has become the first woman and first woman of color to hold that office.
This Women’s History Month, we are taking time to celebrate the progress made by women in leadership across the U.S. government and understand the impact this historic administration will have on healthcare and what it means for each of us.
Sarah Dick, group director, Real Chemistry, said, “These appointments have both inspired and challenged me. They have made me even more conscious of the need to step up and be the role model younger professionals are looking for and expect.”
Melissa Baron, senior account manager, Real Chemistry, notes that, while these appointments have made a positive impact on her personally, they also provide hope for a more equitable future beyond government and in the business world.
Here are some of the women in the Biden administration breaking glass ceilings:
Kamala Harris made history as the first Black American and South Asian American vice president. As a former San Francisco district attorney, she rose among the ranks to become the first Black woman to serve as California’s attorney general. When she was elected a U.S. senator in 2016, she became the second Black woman serving in the chamber’s history. Throughout her career, Harris has been an advocate for improving the health of all Americans, and has supported initiatives focused on food insecurity, female reproductive and maternal health, and racial health disparities. Together with President Biden, Vice President Harris will oversee the new COVID-19 Health Equity Task Force, which will provide recommendations for addressing health inequities caused by the pandemic and preventing such inequities in the future.
Rachel Levine, Pennsylvania Health Secretary, has been nominated by President Biden to be assistant secretary of health. She was appointed to her post by Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf in 2017 and has served as a key leader in the state’s COVID-19 response. If confirmed by the Senate, Dr. Levine will be the first transgender cabinet-level nominee and will manage the nation’s pandemic response and address other public health issues.
Janet Yellen also made history – by being confirmed as the first woman to head the Treasury Department. She is also the only person to have held all three of the nation’s top economic posts — chair of the Federal Reserve and head of the Council of Economic Advisors in addition to Treasury secretary. As Treasury secretary, Yellen will be responsible for creating and implementing domestic and international financial, economic and tax policy.
Avril Haines is the new director of National Intelligence. She is a former deputy director of the CIA and principal deputy national security adviser under the Obama administration – the first woman to hold both roles. In her new position, Haines is expected to draw on global health insights to protect the interests of the United States and avoid pandemics in the future.
Cecilia Rouse, an economist and dean of Princeton University’s School of Public and International Affairs, was nominated to lead the White House Council of Economic Advisers. As chair, Rouse will play a key role in rebuilding the U.S. economy, which has been crippled by the pandemic. Since the public health crisis began, Rouse has been a strong advocate for providing economic relief to those most affected by the virus.
Katherine Tai, who serves as chief trade counsel for the U.S. House Ways and Means Committee, has been nominated to be the next U.S. trade representative. If confirmed, she will be the first Asian American to hold that position. In her opening statement before the Senate Finance Committee, Tai detailed her commitment to re-engaging international institutions to address common threats, including climate change, the pandemic and the global economic downturn.
Rep. Debra Haaland (D-NM), who made history by becoming one of the first two Native American women elected to Congress in 2021, was confirmed by the Senate as secretary of the Interior. Haaland will be the first Native American person to oversee an agency that played a major role historically in the forced relocation and oppression of Indigenous people.
This historic administration has an opportunity to make positive contributions to a wide array of healthcare and health policy-related issues. As always, Real Chemistry is committed to doing our part to make the world a heathier place, which includes supporting diverse female leadership at both the corporate and federal levels. Read more about our initiatives to improve diversity on our website here.
Welcome to our fifth episode of #MedicallySpeaking, a video series aimed at uncovering the what, why and how of marketing and communications in the healthcare industry.
Throughout the six episode series, we’ll be speaking to a variety of people here in the W2O EMEA offices about their jobs, education and experience to find out how they got where they are.
In this video I speak to Kelly Blaney, Managing Director for W2O Group. We talk about how Kelly got into healthcare communications, more about the opportunities at an agency, as well as life working in-house.
Since March, women have taken it on the nose, with many of us catapulted into a multitude of new roles, serving as teacher, nanny, camp director, short-order cook, IT guru, nurse, you name it – all while simultaneously holding down full-time, paying jobs. Millions of women have had to make that “forced” choice to scale back their career, or in many cases altogether quit their jobs to become full-time caregivers. On the other end of the spectrum, the pandemic has caused many jobs to vanish, specifically in the service and hospitality industries, which are dominated by BIPOC women. Last month, the National Women’s Law Center issued a report showing that 100 percent of the jobs lost in December were those held by women. Sadly, years of progress toward the advancement of gender economic equality has been reversed in a matter of months.
However, with this privilege comes a sense of duty. As a working mom in an executive role at an organization whose workforce comprises nearly 70 percent women, I am empowered to use my voice and my position to support women in staying in or returning to the workforce in full force, ultimately reversing this “she-session” so that we continue to move forward in the journey toward gender equality. Here’s how we can make this happen:
Activate your Inner activist and demand more.
As we are acutely aware, large-scale societal, systemic issues directly contribute to this national crisis we are facing, as women continue to leave or be forced out of the workforce. As sociologist Jessica Calarco so eloquently stated, “Other countries have social safety nets. The U.S. has women.” We need a solid plan to recover from this she-session and to significantly boost the participation of women in the workforce while also providing the societal support they need to thrive. I’m thrilled to see progress at the government level with the White House’s recently formed Gender Policy Council, which focuses on “uplifting the rights of women and girls and restoring the country as a champion for women and girls.”
But the White House cannot go at this alone. We must stay engaged by continuing to support candidates who push for policies that advance key issues, including women’s economic security, racial justice, healthcare, affordable childcare and more. Be active in the next election cycle. Advocate for these policies at the local level and within your workplace. Use your VOICE!
That’s what Girls Who Code founder Reshma Saujani along with hundreds of other business executives and celebrities are doing. They’ve asked the Biden Administration to implement a Marshall Plan for Moms, pushing for basic income, paid leave, retraining programs, school reopening plans and more. You can actively join in on this fight. Sign your name to the plan and spread the word amongst your friends, family, colleagues and via your social channels.
Elevate + amplify BIPOC women’s voices.
The pandemic is exposing America’s vast race and gender inequities when it comes to economics, with Black and Latina women continuing to remain at the bottom of the economic echelon. However, work is being done at the government, corporate and community levels to change this. Recently appointed chief economist for the U.S. Department of Labor, Janelle Jones, along with several other powerful leaders have established Black Women Best, a framework for prioritizing the economic well-being of Black women in effort to “bolster immediate recovery efforts, build durable and equitable institutions, and strengthen collective prosperity.” L.A.-based nonprofit New Economics for Women is helping Latinas address race, gender and economic disparities amid the pandemic and has directly helped increase income and financial resources, including job attainment/improvement, increased savings, debt reduction, relief assistance, asset creation and more – all indicators of economic mobility.
What can we as individuals do? Get involved and/or donate to key nonprofits with BIPOC women-centric missions. NEW, Loveland Foundation and Sadie Collective are some good ones that bring significant opportunity to women of color. Additionally, actively help to elevate BIPOC women’s voices within your organization. Empower them to share their thoughts and ideas; promote their skills, abilities and experiences; give them credit for their work; and celebrate their professional wins.
To truly move women forward and ensure that WE thrive now and into the future, economic equality policies and access to affordable childcare support must be addressed head-on. We’re getting closer and I am more hopeful now than ever before.
If we work together, we can collectively help women rise. Let’s continue the good fight. I’m ready. Are you?
At W2O, we continue to recognize and take action regarding the need for diversity, inclusion and mentorship, especially during this time when we are working from our own homes. To support the growing need to create the most inclusive culture, and in the spirit of mentorship awareness month, we are proud to announce our newest employee resource group (ERG), called Evolve.
Evolve exists to create a community of peers who are sharing similar professional milestones: first or early stage jobs, new to our industry or their profession, navigating early career opportunities and challenges. The mission of Evolve is to provide support as peers across W2O and its affiliated companies share, collaborate and integrate learnings, while fostering professional development.
Evolve literally evolved from W2O’s previous peer group, Committee of Millennials (COM), which was started in 2013. COM began in W2O’s New York office and served as a group of millennial peers to support, network and learn from one another. Eight years later, COM has transformed into Evolve, as individuals from all generations begin their professional careers, whether they are new to an agency, new to the healthcare industry, or are simply early in their career seeking likeminded peers to learn from. Evolve exists to serve as a resource and support system for all.
The mandate of Evolve is to support members through mentorship, opportunity, education and a broad range of professional development themes, with sponsorship and advocacy by senior leaders throughout W2O.
The six main professional development committees include:
Networking – a priority, especially due to our current work-from-home situation; Evolve will ensure members are well acquainted with one another at a peer level, as well as with senior leaders at W2O
Professional Development – will serve as an opportunity for members to help navigate situations at work (e.g., giving and receiving feedback, practicing public speaking, etc.) and will include sessions where members can collaborate to enhance their career progressions
Industry Education – a focal point, as we learn #BetterTogether and dive deeper into the healthcare industry, regularly hosting guest speakers to present on topics critical to our industry
Information Sharing – includes smaller, more intimate sessions where members can feel safe to be candid with one another to share learnings and case studies about work they contributed to
Skills Courses – focus on enhancing members’ everyday skills, ranging from recommendations of online courses to specifics related to client etiquette and other best practices that will help members improve in their careers
Promotion and Advertising – an opportunity for members to enhance internal and external communications, including developing posts for W2O social channels and writing blog posts or creating an e-newsletter; our goal is to promote Evolve externally and foster awareness and engagement internally
As we begin 2021, we encourage everyone to focus on your development and growth, build your network of peers, and, most importantly, to evolve, both professionally and personally.
Creating a workplace where people can bring their authentic selves to work leads to creativity and innovation. Our Head of DE&I, Marcia Windross discusses the importance of DE&I for companies and highlights National Mentoring Month and the impact of mentorship. Take a listen below.
A YEAR of a novel coronavirus that was unpredictable and, for many, unforgiving.
A YEAR where the world simply felt like it had stopped, frozen in time.
A YEAR where we saw the most significant and vocal movement for racial equity following some of the worst injustices we’ve seen in 50+ years and an election that divided a nation.
If you would have told me in March that we would be able to transition 1,600 people to work from home, create a digital infrastructure to connect all our staff and clients seamlessly, and keep moving ahead of the rapidly changing needs of the healthcare industry, I am not sure I would have believed it.
But we did. And we didn’t just survive. We thrived – by living our purpose every day, delivering vital information about COVID-19 and many other diseases to physician and patient communities that needed support more than ever before.
We were privileged to work with many clients and organizations tirelessly developing tests, devices, treatments and vaccines for COVID-19. All in the scope of just 9 months! We saw our clients at their very best, working 24/7 to tame a beast that has terrorized people all over the world. I’ve never been prouder to work in this industry!
We came together as a team like never before to support each other and innovate in record time to create digital solutions that will change the future of healthcare forever.
We responded in real-time to the needs of our people and their families with compassion and programs – from providing support to our staff members who experienced the devastating loss of loved ones, to addressing mental health needs, to offering tutoring for children navigating online learning, to providing technology now considered essential for work-from-home situations, to rapidly responding to the urgent need for all of us to join forces and champion diversity, equity and inclusion.
And while the lack of human interaction was a real loss, Zoom-culture allowed us to get to know people in surprisingly intimate ways, giving us a peek into their lives, homes, bookshelves, families and even their furry friends.
We learned to appreciate the simple life again, to rediscover nature, our family, friends, neighbors, strangers…and ourselves. Some of us even learned that at-home workouts are not that bad, that grandparents actually love TikTok, and that banana bread will likely be the #1 baked good of 2020.
I am humbled, grateful and thankful…most importantly to the frontline workers – from healthcare professionals, to delivery men and women, to those who masked up and went to work every single day at the height of the pandemic, risking their lives to ensure we could all function and in some cases survive!
As the year (finally!) draws to a close and I think about 2021, I am filled with so much hope for us all to come out of this pandemic better than we went into it. And for us all to continue to work together for a healthier, happier, more equitable and more inclusive future. Wishing everyone a safe, healthy and happy holiday season!
Welcome to our third episode of #MedicallySpeaking! A video series aimed at uncovering the what, why and how of marketing and communications in the healthcare industry.
Throughout the six episodes we’ll be speaking to a variety of people here in the W2O EMEA offices about their jobs, education and experience to find out how they got where they are.
In this video I speak to Dara Mohammadi, an associate creative director about what that job title actually means, how he started in his career as a journalist and some tips on how to become a Creative Director.
Welcome to our second episode of #MedicallySpeaking! A video series aimed at uncovering the what, why and how of marketing and communications in the healthcare industry.
In this episode I speak to Dafnie Prodromou, Senior Analyst for W2O Group to discuss how a career in pharmacy changed to a career in data and analytics for some of the biggest healthcare companies in the world.
Watch to find out more about what it’s like to work in data and analytics.
Recently, Sally Susman, Chief Communications Officer at Pfizer, addressed our firm, sharing her life story and the many hurdles she has overcome during her storied career in communications. The key take-away from Sally was when you hit a roadblock or find you are faced with adversity: “Do something.” Such advice is so timely and relevant amid a pandemic, a contentious election, and social unrest plaguing the country and the world. It was a strong message to our 1,500 people and one they can relate to in 2020.
When COVID-19 hit in March, we sprang into action. Instead of hunkering down or waiting to see what would happen next, we pushed forward based on four principles:
Focused on People – We mobilized our workforce in a virtual network and set up managers to transition to working with their teams in a seamless manner. At the same time, we initiated new programs to support parents schooling children at home, children attending to parents, and individuals needing additional services to get through the situation.
Focused on Clients – We acquired new and different skills and talent and developed approaches to help organizations and brands navigate this new dynamic, including custom programs fueled by data, analytics and insights. Further we’ve been involved in all aspects of vaccine development, Covid testing and treatment.
Focused on the Industry – As a healthcare innovation firm, we immersed ourselves in pursuing answers to the situation. From mobilizing our people to fund ventilators and PPE. To challenging the status quo on industry response, pushing for better communications and information. To serving on a number of boards and groups, including the Commons Project, to provide needed advice, resources and financial support. To producing six separate reports on COVID-19 and its impact on corporate relevance, employee perspectives on leadership behavior, and competitive analysis on corporate response.
Focused on the Future (Generation) – We kicked off our 10th year at Syracuse University conducting Social Commerce Days with students and professors through the W2O Newhouse Center for Social Commerce with former IBM CCO/CMO Jon Iwata as keynote speaker. We are continuing with similar efforts at USC, Wisconsin, Elon, Alabama and Howard, as we encourage and educate the next generation of professionals and leaders.
Focused on Doing What’s Right – During these tumultuous times, we doubled down on our purpose. We took new and urgent actions to address our diversity, equity and inclusion efforts broadly and measurably. And we’ve been educating and supporting our employees to get out the vote – as part of our efforts toward health citizenship – including giving Election Day as a paid day off to engage.
It’s human nature to not venture beyond the unknown, not peek into the dark, and not step outside your comfort zone. It can be scary, but you’re not alone. As Sally reminded us, pushing ahead opens our creative mind. It elevates our confidence. It secures our purpose. And it steels our resolve. As we’ve traversed this uncertain landscape over the last eight months, I’m proud to see how our people, clients, students and industry colleagues have persevered and excelled.
2020 will certainly go down as one of the more challenging times in our lives. Having said that, it’s also taught us much about our ability to change, shift, transition and be more humane and empathetic. But through it all passion, energy and action has shone through. To paraphrase the immortal Yogi Berra, if you’re thrown a curveball, hit it!
This is core to who we are and deeply woven into our DNA – we say #MakeItHappen. Or, in other words, “Do something!”
When Jim Weiss started what is now W2O, he had a vision to make the world a healthier place by creating the type of firm he was looking for when he was a client. Fast forward nearly 20 years, and W2O now employs more than 1,500 industry rock stars who are working from home and dealing with some pretty incredible challenges while they continue to deliver for clients day in and day out.
With women comprising nearly 70% of our workforce, and most employees age 27 to 50, it was clear that “family” would be a key driver of the support we would want to provide. To ensure that W2O families start out right and have the needed support throughout the parenting journey, we already provide extensive health benefits – from fertility support to parental leave (including additional time for preemie care) to our award-winningYour 4th Trimester™ program, which provides 90 days of concierge support for each new employee parent.
We also have an Employee Resource Group, W2O Families, whose mission is to “empower working parents of W2O to be successful in their roles at work and at home, nurturing a family-friendly culture at the firm while engaging employees’ children, too.”
During the past six months, W2O Families has been supporting families with extensive programming, engaging content and – importantly – reminders to prioritize self-care. From a pen pal program that connects children of W2O employees, to “Nana School” with a retired kindergarten teacher keeping little ones learning, moving and having fun, to story time led by various W2O employees, the focus of W2O Families has been on keeping W2O kids active and engaged during our “Safer @Home” period.
Recently, W2O Families hosted a panel of experts to discuss the topic of Navigating Parenting in a Pandemic. A best-selling author, licensed psychologist, licensed clinical social worker (LCSW), and curriculum specialist/teacher answered employees’ questions about distance learning, screen time, setting boundaries, and defining home and school spaces. They also offered advice on how W2O parents can continue to be successful during these trying times. I’ve never seen a more active chat, so it’s safe to say that our employees were excited to have a forum where they could find commonality with co-workers and benefit from expert advice.
For my husband and I, the panel underscored why W2O is such an exceptional company to work for: our culture is built to care about the individual first and foremost. When employees feel supported and invested in, it shows in their work and loyalty.
To that end, we recently rolled out some additional – and uniquely W2O – support programs:
W2O F.I.T. allows employees to find a FLEXIBLE schedule that helps them meet the current demands of caregiving, distance learning and self-care. This program is available to all employees, and HR Business Partners are working with each of their departments to reimagine what work schedules look like for each team. Keeping the 4Cs top of mind – Clients, Coverage, Communication and Collaboration – W2O believes that we can support our employees to create a work schedule that supports each team’s needs while still providing world-class customer support. The other components of the program include being INTENTIONAL about our priorities; working smarter, not harder; and being TECH-ENABLED, which means utilizing the best technology to support our work streams.
W2O Tutoring offers a substantial discount on tutoring and a company subsidy for tutoring hours for employees’ children. Our partners, Sylvan Learning and Cornerstone on Demand, allow each hour we purchase for our kids to be matched by a donation of hours toward educating children in underserved communities through the Boys & Girls Club. This partnership is focused squarely on the concern of learning loss and making the world a healthier place through education.
We are partnering with Modern Health to encourage W2Oers to take care of their mental health and well-being by making it easier to get access to the level of support they need, when they need it. In addition to such resources as guided meditations and health assessments via the mobile app, employees – and their dependents! – have access to individual telehealth counseling sessions to help them navigate these uncharted and highly stressful times. These counseling benefits are in addition to mental health benefits offered through our health insurance benefits, Employee Assistance Program, and “in house” LCSW.
We also offer wellness stipends, work from home expense reimbursements, and meditation services, which are designed to care for the whole individual.
W2O is truly living our mission of “Making the World a Healthier Place” – and we are starting with the total health of our employees. We will always have their backs, because it’s the right thing to do.
Earlier this week we announced starpower is a part of the W2O team! W2O Global President, Jennifer Gottlieb, sits in as guest host and chats with starpower Founders and Managing Partners, Matt Lalin and Jared Weiss. They discuss why we made our long-standing partnership official, the power of influencer marketing, and how we will continue to be first at what’s next in healthcare. Take a listen below.
There is nothing more important in our profession than paving the way for the next generation of practitioners. Passing on the lessons, learnings, accomplishments, failures and perspectives so they can be translated to what’s next. Providing students with internships and graduates with entry-level positions maintains the circle of careers and ensures organizations of all sizes benefit from fresh thinking and attitudes.
Doing so becomes even more crucial in a virtual environment where campuses are attempting to navigate a different format. In this regard, W2O continues to persevere in its commitment to students and professors. Approximately 10 years ago, we established the W2O Center for Social Commerce at Syracuse University’s Newhouse School as a beacon for young people to immerse themselves in the digital world we live in to help them understand the tools, techniques, models, insights and behaviors influencing business and relationships.
Over the years, we have engaged over 1,500 students in numerous programs (speakers, workshops, panels, symposia, research, and conferences such as SXSW) to better improve their capabilities and confidence. It’s been quite a journey and this summer we celebrated an important milestone. Maria Russell, noted Newhouse communications academic and co-director of the Center since its inception, retired. Maria was an integral part of establishing the program with my team led by Gary Grates as the model of a premier industry-academic partnership. Moving forward Beth Egan, advertising professor in Newhouse, who has adopted analytics including a specific course in her curriculum, will co-direct the Center for Social Commerce with Gary and my team. Beth’s appointment expands the Center beyond Communications into other disciplines within Newhouse allowing us to expand education programming and recruitment efforts seamlessly.
W2O has also established the Emerging Insights Lab, with Regina Luttrell, Assistant Professor of Communications and Social Media at Newhouse, to experiment and explore the latest technology, approaches, and teaching in digital related to marketing and communications. This focus is aligned with the firm’s data, analytics, and insights strategic core and we are looking forward to this initiative adding to what should become a very enlightened and innovative experience for students and faculty across the whole university.
Our involvement and investment in Syracuse is matched with our growing partnerships with Wisconsin, Elon, USC Annenberg, Howard, and Alabama. Together, we are operating to leverage assets, ideas, and programming that influences and informs curricula to adapt to a new reality. Here is a snapshot of the initiatives being conducted to immerse SU students and professors in a virtual environment:
Advanced analytics virtual workshop in October;
A seminal research initiative with the W2O Emerging Insights Labs called “Health Fluency”;
A new networking program called “Casual Convos”: virtual discussions with underclassmen about the business of communications;
A virtual session on Relevance for professors to understand the model and approach and to apply it in class;
W2O staff guest speaking virtually throughout the semester to supplement professor lesson planning across the entire spectrum of communications sharing case studies and anecdotes;
On October 14, we’re hosting Jon Iwata, former Senior Vice President, Global Communications and Chief Brand Officer at IBM, who will conduct a virtual keynote presentation and Q&A on the new realities and opportunities facing business, society, and communications;
The Center’s Ambassadors, who will be interning with us throughout the year, are involved in a research study on the impact of COVID on the SU Community.
Being there for the next generation allows for both outreach and impact to expand. Providing students the confidence and skills to succeed in their career endeavors and to provide a pipeline for talent entering the field remains our focus and mission!
The past several months have been some of the most trying we have ever experienced in our country. The convergence of a global pandemic, economic recession, and civil unrest spurred by racial injustice alongside a presidential election keeps the news cycle flooded with breaking events every hour (at least). Many of these events are difficult to reckon with, and I – like so many Americans – have worried about our future. But, more often than not, I find myself driven and encouraged. Seeing the global scientific community coming together to develop and commercialize vaccines and therapies for COVID-19. Seeing millions of Americans across the country peacefully protest to fight for racial justice. I am driven when I sit down with my teenage children and hear about the issues that are important to them and talk about what we as a family are doing to make a difference.
Having said that, the first Tuesday in November is one of the most important days we can all make a difference: Election Day. This year will be like no other Election Day in history. Election Day will be different for W2O’s U.S. employees because we are giving everyone the day off to ensure they can do their civic duty and cast their ballots. We’ve committed to this publicly by joining Time to Vote, a nonpartisan movement, led by the business community, to contribute to the culture shift needed to increase voter participation in U.S. elections.
I’m grateful that our business and our clients allow us this type of flexibility, and this is a decision we made with intention. Encouraging civic engagement among our employees and doing our part to drive voter turnout is a natural extension of our values and our work to make the world a healthier place – something we call Health Citizenship.
Health is directly connected to government and public policy – at all levels. What happens at the polls in the United States impacts the health of all U.S. residents – and in many ways, the health of people around the world. To advance health outcomes for everyone, we need an informed and engaged electorate who consider health policies when they cast their votes.
The health of our employees is of utmost importance. W2O has offices across the United States and remote employees in many other U.S. locations. We employ the best and the brightest, and what happens in their communities plays a role in how they deliver for our clients every day.
Voting is one of the most important rights you have to make your voice heard. As a company, to create solutions for our clients, we listen carefully to what audiences need and want. As a country, we see and hear what our citizens need and want through their actions and voices, and even more clearly when everyone votes.
We built our business at W2O on an entrepreneurial spirit. If you want to do something, then do it. I can think of no other place that philosophy is more applicable than at the ballot box.
Make sure you’re registered to vote. Make your plan today for how you’ll cast your ballot safely. And do whatever you can to ensure everyone around you does the same.
It’s about making your voice heard. Your passion known. And your future a reality!
The coronavirus has defined 2020. The pandemic has impacted every aspect of our lives, from how we work to how we learn —the effects of COVID on our communities cannot be overstated. And while we all share setbacks, loss, and grief during this collective experience, it is clear that communities of color face additional obstacles because of systemic racism. We understand that words and thoughts will not dismantle this issue — it will take continued, sustained action to create equity.
We are committed to listening, learning, and, most importantly, taking action to create necessary change. One of these actions is partnering up with The Center for Excellence in Life (TCEL), founded by Mary Stutts, an accomplished corporate executive, author, and entrepreneur. TCEL’s mission is to break down roadblocks for underrepresented youth and young professionals. Through life skills development, mentoring, career counseling, and social and business etiquette training, TCEL is committed to making measurable changes.
This summer, many companies were forced to eliminate their in-person internship programs due to COVID-19, leaving students, specifically in underrepresented areas, without the tools needed to further their education and professional experience. TCEL did what they do best, saw a need, and created a solution — Mary and her daughter Loren designed an unprecedented program that allows students to connect with working professionals and gain real-world experience via video mentoring sessions.
So, when Mary and the TCEL team reached out to us to be a sponsor of this, we wanted to support and help provide resources, this is exactly the type of action required of us to help bring racial equity into education and the workplace. As W2O Founder & CEO, Jim Weisssaid earlier this summer, “We will continue to work together to improve our profession across agencies and companies, with the broader goal of addressing systemic racism. That is one way we can change ourselves to change society.”
We’re proud to sponsor a program that addresses inequities to help dismantle racism in the workplace and that has helped over 80 students this summer gain the knowledge and resources they need to succeed in life.
Today is Women’s Equality Day, commemorating the 100th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment. In guaranteeing women the right to vote, the Amendment engendered the single largest expansion of democracy since our nation’s founding, notwithstanding the enormous barriers that women of color have faced for decades. It’s particularly important to note its significance as we approach this very important election, the outcome of which will reverberate for generations. W2O is so committed to getting out the vote in November that we’ve made Election Day a company holiday.
Although the term probably didn’t exist 100 years ago, I like to think of the suffragettes who tenaciously fought for decades to win the vote as pioneering badasses. A badass, as once defined by famous and very likeable badass Katie Couric, is a woman who “stands up for herself, is confident and is not afraid to challenge the hierarchy, the patriarchy or conventional thinking…somebody who believes in something and sticks with it and who strives for excellence and demands the same level of excellence from others.”
I was raised to be highly independent and, through life’s ups and downs, have become incredibly resilient. This, combined with having great role models in my life, from a strong working mother to mentors and bosses who informed my career path, including, for the past 15 years, one very badass man, our CEO and founder, Jim Weiss, has made me who I am today. Jim and I coach and help the men and women at W2O channel their own unique, hard-driving qualities every day, making W2O an organization that pushes the boundaries to what is possible for ourselves, our clients and the greater healthcare industry.
On top of the challenges we women face at work, we are often the CEO of our families – whether or not we have children. We (generally) spend more hours than our partner taking care of the house, children, pets, aging parents and other relatives, an imbalance that has only intensified during the COVID-19 pandemic. It is even harder for single parents and parents with children with special needs. We must stay awake to this, have empathy and create support programs and systems that allow our women employees to thrive.
Making W2O a Healthier Workplace through Diversity, Equity and Inclusion
At W2O, we work hard to champion diversity, equity and inclusion because workplace inequality is still an obstacle for women, who on average earn 81.6% of what men are paid (and it’s worse for women of color). According to McKinsey, women – particularly women of color – are underrepresented at every level in corporate America, despite widespread corporate pronouncements about gender diversity. Men are more likely than women to be hired or promoted into manager-level jobs, a bias that causes an unabating shortage of women at senior-level positions.
Today, 70% of W2O’s workforce and 61% of our leadership is women – we are proud of our progress, yet we know there is more to be done especially for women of color, and we are committed to addressing that. Equality, as we well know, is not just a women’s issue; it’s a social and economic imperative for everyone. The McKinsey report found that, when employees believe they have an equal and fair opportunity for advancement, they are happier with their careers, plan to stay at their companies longer, and are more likely to recommend them as great places to work.
W2O has much more to do on DE&I, and we’re acting urgently to close the diversity gap and create a culture where all employees feel a sense of belonging and acceptance.
We recently committed to create an entire department dedicated to DE&I and have both hired leaders from the outside and promoted from within. We are also implementing new software to track data on hiring, compensation, promotion, pay equity and employee retention to ensure we are measuring our progress.
These actions build on our existing initiatives, including unconscious bias training and our employee resource groups – W2O Fusion, W2O Out and Women of W2O – that provide professional resources and support to help advance careers. We also support multiple initiatives and groups that are focused on issues of racial justice, including the Black Economic Alliance, The Center for Excellence in Life and The LAGRANT Foundation.
The Torch Has Passed to Us
So, as we honor Women’s Equality Day, we give thanks to those badass suffragettes who endured beatings, sexual harassment and even jail to win our right to vote, and the many women after them who fought for equality. We’re not done yet; there is more work to do!
Now the torch has passed to us to make women’s equality – indeed, equality for all underrepresented groups – happen. We have to relentlessly pursue our goals, be courageous and take chances, see obstacles as opportunities to learn, and rewrite the rules that no longer work. And of course get out and vote!
And for women who do make it to the top, to borrow a phrase from the chanteuse Edith Piaf (yet another badass), remember to send the elevator back down to bring others up.