Business 08 October 2018
It was announced yesterday, that in the wake of Starbucks’ Vice Chair Howard Schultz’s departure, the revered company executive Mellody Hobson will be taking his place.
Hobson, who boasts an impressive resume as a previous board member at Estée Lauder, DreamWorks Animation and Groupon, is the latest in a string of strategic post-crisis executive appointments that have caught the attention of true diversity advocates.
While the most recent HR move can, one side, be viewed as a natural promotion for a woman who has her fair share of experience and genuinely deserves it, it can also be looked at as a reaction to what Starbucks has been through in recent weeks. With the entire company taking four hours out of its workday last Tuesday to conduct racial bias training following a racially divisive scandal that caught the nation’s attention, it’s clear that they are under the “wokeness” microscope, and feel compelled to make it publically known, ever so slyly, that steps in the right direction are being made.
“I think Starbucks is sending a strong message in doing this,” Jeff Dickerson, a crisis communications adviser in Atlanta, told the Washington Post. “They’re bucking the trend, because ordinarily when large companies find themselves in this situation, they have counsel who will advise them against" admitting they'd done anything wrong.”
Without wanting to diminish the achievements of this incredibly qualified boss woman, is it perhaps, a little convenient that this appointment was made so close to the disaster that occurred not so long ago? Is this perhaps the most beautifully packaged PR stunt Starbucks has executed, superseding even that of the Unicorn Frappuccino?
Does this harken back to Uber’s genius move to appoint fan favorite Bozoma Saint John to her position as Chief Brand Officer in the wake of Travis Kalanick’s disastrous fall from grace? Is there a semblance of a pattern here?
And while sure, the end justifies the means [meaning we are always happy to see more female representation no matter the reason], wouldn't it be better practice to have women, and diversity as an integral part of the growth of the company from the get-go? Rather than this be a reactionary occurrence when a company is in panic mode, or when facing a crisis that begs a cataclysmic change of company culture, would it not be better to begin developing programs that aid those at a disadvantage entering the workplace?
Talking to Fortune last year, Ursula Burns, the first African-American woman to become CEO of a Fortune 500 company in Xerox, noted that the reason there are so few women of color at the top of the totem pole is because of the schooling in the country. “Not enough are coming out of the education system to get them all the way through to the C-suite,” she said. And while that might be true, the institutionalized bias against women in the workplace is another major contributing factor that goes almost unrecognized.
This self-serving, and somewhat predictable damage control move begs the question: Are these diverse women being promoted because of the mistakes of white men? And if so, why aren’t more companies proactively hiring or promoting diverse women in order to avoid these PR nightmares?
We recently explored the notion that women have been hired or promoted as CEOs of flailing companies, in order to become a scapegoat for a company’s failures. The “glass cliff,” the “glass ceiling’s” younger, more nefarious sibling, represents a situation whereby companies that are in trouble and looking for new leadership, turn to men first to help them out. But when these men, foreseeing a painful career catastrophe, turn them down, they then look to women, who invariably jump at the opportunity to breakthrough the proverbial glass ceiling, and take a job at the helm of a sinking ship.
“I think it’s good that she takes it [the job as CEO],” former Yahoo CEO Carol Bartz told Freakonomics Radio. “I have no problem with that. But it’s not that all of a sudden the boards wake up and say, ‘Oh, there should be a female here.’ … It’s easier to hide behind: ‘Well, of course, that failed, because it was female.’”
So what do the glass ceiling women, like Bartz, and new hires, like Hobson and Saint John have in common? That they weren’t considered before there was a crisis.
With so many groundbreaking medical advances being revealed to the world every single day, you would imagine there would be some advancement on the plethora of many female-prevalent diseases (think female cancers, Alzheimer's, depression, heart conditions etc.) that women are fighting every single day.
For Anna Villarreal and her team, there frankly wasn't enough being done. In turn, she developed a method that diagnoses these diseases earlier than traditional methods, using a pretty untraditional method in itself: through your menstrual blood.
Getting from point A to point B wasn't so easy though. Villarreal was battling a disease herself and through that experience. “I wondered if there was a way to test menstrual blood for female specific diseases," she says. "Perhaps my situation could have been prevented or at least better managed. This led me to begin researching menstrual blood as a diagnostic source. For reasons the scientific and medical community do not fully understand, certain diseases impact women differently than men. The research shows that clinical trials have a disproportionate focus on male research subjects despite clear evidence that many diseases impact more women than men."
There's also no denying that gap in women's healthcare in clinical research involving female subjects - which is exactly what inspired Villarreal to launch her company, LifeStory Health. She says that, “with my personal experience everything was brought full circle."
“There is a challenge and a need in the medical community for more sex-specific research. I believe the omission of females as research subjects is putting women's health at risk and we need to fuel a conversation that will improve women's healthcare.,"
Her brand new biotech company is committed to changing the women's healthcare market through technology, innovation and vocalization and through extensive research and testing. She is working to develop the first ever, non-invasive, menstrual blood diagnostic and has partnered with a top Boston-area University on research and has won awards from The International Society for Pharmaceutical Engineering and Northeastern University's RISE.
How does it work exactly? Proteins are discovered in menstrual blood that can quickly and easily detect, manage and track diseases in women, resulting in diseases that can be earlier detected, treated and even prevented in the first place. The menstrual blood is easy to collect and since it's a relatively unexplored diagnostic it's honestly a really revolutionary concept, too.
So far, the reactions of this innovative research has been nothing but excitement. “The reactions have been incredibly positive." she shares with SWAAY. “Currently, menstrual blood is discarded as bio waste, but it could carry the potential for new breakthroughs in diagnosis. When I educate women on the lack of female subjects used in research and clinical trials, they are surprised and very excited at the prospect that LifeStory Health may provide a solution and the key to early detection."
To give a doctor's input, and a little bit more of an explanation as to why this really works, Dr. Pat Salber, MD, and Founder of The Doctor Weighs In comments: “researchers have been studying stem cells derived from menstrual blood for more than a decade. Stem cells are cells that have the capability of differentiating into different types of tissues. There are two major types of stem cells, embryonic and adult. Adult stem cells have a more limited differentiation potential, but avoid the ethical issues that have surrounded research with embryonic stem cells. Stem cells from menstrual blood are adult stem cells."
These stem cells are so important when it comes to new findings. “Stem cells serve as the backbone of research in the field of regenerative medicine – the focus which is to grow tissues, such as skin, to repair burn and other types of serious skin wounds.
A certain type of stem cell, known as mesenchymal stem cells (MenSCs) derived from menstrual blood has been found to both grow well in the lab and have the capability to differentiate in various cell types, including skin. In addition to being used to grow tissues, their properties can be studied that will elucidate many different aspects of cell function," Dr. Salber explains.
To show the outpour of support for her efforts and this major girl power research, Villarreal remarks, “women are volunteering their samples happily report the arrival of their periods by giving samples to our lab announcing “de-identified sample number XXX arrived today!" It's a far cry from the stereotype of when “it's that time of the month."
How are these collections being done? “Although it might sound odd to collect menstrual blood, plastic cups have been developed to use in the collection process. This is similar to menstrual products, called menstrual cups, that have been on the market for many years," Dr. Salber says.
Equally shocking and innovative, this might be something that becomes more common practice in the future. And according to Dr. Salber, women may be able to not only use the menstrual blood for early detection, but be able to store the stem cells from it to help treat future diseases. “Companies are working to commercialize the use of menstrual blood stem cells. One company, for example, is offering a patented service to store menstrual blood stem cells for use in tissue generation if the need arises."