Earlier this April, I had the privilege of attending the UCLA Velocity Women’s Summit amongst students of the Anderson School of Business. This conference is held annually, and this year, we celebrated the power and impact of women while placing an emphasis on exploring solutions for an equitable future in business and society. Through listening to the current and future leaders of our world and placing myself in an environment amongst graduate school students, I was able to absorb feedback to share with you all:
CULTIVATING A LEADERSHIP PRESENCE
The most important leadership role in your life is leading yourself. Without acknowledging your existence and the impact you want to make, it is impossible to lead or create relations with those who can help you move forward. Leadership begins with four key qualities: authenticity, integrity, confidence, and connection with yourself and those around you. Think about your personal brand, and how you can use it as an advantage to what makes you unique. A quote to consider by Jeff Bezos, founder and CEO of Amazon, is “your brand is what other people say about you when you’re not in the room.” It is all about the impact you have on others that reflects your image, because YOU own the majority stake in your development.
Mustering the will and motivation for leadership, especially after almost a year of social isolation, can be overwhelming. But, we must recognize and appreciate that as humans, we all share certain innate qualities and desires. At our core, we all seek happiness. It is in achieving happiness through fulfillment that the greatest benefit comes to both individuals and society as a whole. While self doubt often gets in the way of our efforts, we must overcome our insecurities and lead with both confidence and a healthy mind.
A STORY INSPIRING CHANGE
Human psychology naturally has us looking backwards to the past. Martine Rothblatt is a UCLA Anderson alumni, founder of Sirius XM Satellite Radio, and CEO of United Therapeutics. As a transgender woman, Martine quickly understood the theme of “forward” in finance, setting her up to be one of America’s richest self-made women, according to Forbes. But, her success never came easily.
During her time at UCLA to acquire her J.D./M.B.A., Rothblatt studied the law of satellite communications and had the vision of uniting the world through spot beam technology. After years of accomplishments with NASA, launching the first international spacecom project (PanAmSat), the first satellite radio network (WorldSpace), and Sirius XM, Martine conquered the impossible.
In 1994, her daughter was diagnosed with pulmonary arterial hypertension, which at the time was fatal and provided no treatment. Inspired to save her daughter’s life and the lives of others suffering through this condition, Martine, with absolutely zero knowledge in anything related to biology, took charge of a problem that was in need of change. She began with reading the equivalent of “Biology for Dummies,” expanding on the general criteria, to then read detailed briefs on the disease itself. She would speak to her daughter’s doctors in depth without knowing how to pronounce a single word. After all her success in making satellite a global phenomenon, Martine attained a P.h.D. in medical ethics in 2001.
From there, Martine invested her resources and time in finding a solution. Creating United Therapeutics and saving her daughter’s life would not have been possible without her authenticity and empathy to collaborate with others to make the world a better place. When finding the cure for pulmonary hypertension, biotech companies did not support her solution. With persistence, she purchased the once deemed “useless molecule” and gave them a 10% stake. Today, United Therapeutics has a nine billion dollar market cap and is now working on providing an unlimited supply of transplantable organs.
The lesson to be learned from Martine Rothblatt’s story is to never underestimate your capabilities. Circling back to the leadership points above, it was very easy for Martine to have given up on transforming the field of medicine. As a trans woman, she also had to overcome the obstacles of coming out. Managing self doubt and having confidence in your abilities is the best thing you can do because when you lead with dignity, you move with others.
WOMEN IN BUSINESS
McKinsey & Company is a global management consulting firm to the world’s largest and leading businesses. Women in the Workplace (2020), a report by LeanIn.Org in partnership with McKinsey & Company, studied an advance of diversity in corporate America. Nearly 600 companies participated, and over 250,000 people were surveyed between 2015 and 2019. COVID-19 has now posed an unexpected challenge, especially hindering progress to gender parity. The pandemic disrupted equitable trends going forward, in ways we have never seen before, proving that it will take 135 years until we achieve an equitable workplace and ELEVATE women.