Women’s History Month: Opening Doors for Women of Color
F1S client Charlotte Jones-Burton, MD, MS talks about the nonprofit Women of Color in Pharma she founded—and how they’re working to empower Black and Latina women in the pharmaceutical industry.
Welcome to our Women’s History Month series, where we are spotlighting incredible women across various industries who are breaking barriers and working to create a more equitable world.
In 2015, F1S client Charlotte Jones-Burton, MD, MS, Senior Vice President at Chinook Therapeutics launched the nonprofit Women of Color in Pharma, an organization dedicated to empowering women of color in the pharmaceutical industry.
Here, she talks about what inspired her to start the organization, their groundbreaking mission, and the impactful ways the group is supporting and encouraging Black and Latina women across the field.
F1S: We’d love to hear more about Women of Color in Pharma (WOCIP).
Charlotte Jones-Burton: Women of Color in Pharma (aka WOCIP) is a nonprofit organization that promotes the development and advancement of women of color in the pharmaceutical/life sciences industry. WOCIP has a network of over 10,000 members and followers representing life sciences companies around the globe.
Founded in 2015 as a professional society for women of color, WOCIP is a business solution to advancing equity in the life sciences industry by empowering women of color to seek their own personal and professional development so they can attain decision-making roles. By addressing gaps in representation and leadership levels that exist in most companies within the life sciences industry and convening key stakeholders in the health ecosystem (C-Suite leaders, board members, investors, diverse suppliers, scientists, and community leaders) WOCIP believes it can advance health equity in an accelerated and sustainable manner.
WOCIP continues to strengthen leadership competencies for our members globally and enable all stakeholders to take ownership/accountability of barriers that thwart the development of women of color. Since its inception, WOCIP has established a set of priorities focusing on the identified needs of women of color, specifically Black women and Latinas.
In concordance with our mission, its priorities are to: 1. Strengthen cultural and leadership competencies to advance equity globally; 2. Build higher levels of leadership effectiveness; and 3. Reinforce the importance of the link between emotions and energy to promote higher levels of self-care and leadership.
WOCIP offers a safe and nurturing environment for personal and professional growth, enhanced industry understanding, and access to solutions to help increase their impact. For companies looking to advance equity and increase the impact that inclusion can have on your business, WOCIP offers opportunities for development and visibility among the industry’s women of color, dynamic forums for your leaders to enhance their lens of equity and connectivity with communities of color.
Helping Women of color excel
F1S: What inspired you to found the organization?
Charlotte Jones-Burton: I was inspired by many women whom I invited to a wine and cheese party at my home in 2015. This networking event turned into a workshop where we discussed the lack of a professional development organization to authentically help Black and Latina women excel in their careers. I learned that my feelings of isolation, frustration, and confusion on how to climb the corporate ladder were also felt by others. After the women left my home, I was determined to bring forth a solution and the idea to start Women of Color in Pharma was born.
F1S: Why is it important to empower women in this industry—and across all industries?
Charlotte Jones-Burton: Something magical happens when women support other women. Since founding WOCIP, I have witnessed the uplift that happens when women are supported and encouraged. WOCIP is unlocking possibilities from the inside out by creating a safe and nurturing environment that leads to increased confidence and courage needed for our members to thrive in our industry.
F1S: Anything else we should know?
Charlotte Jones-Burton: As a pharmaceutical executive who has spent fifteen years in the pharmaceutical industry-leading clinical trial development for multiple medicines across various disease areas including cardiovascular and renal diseases, our industry has more to do to advance the health of all patients. As an organization, WOCIP is now positioned to advocate for increased access among diverse populations to medicines, devices, diagnostics that are in development and those that are commercialized. This is a huge undertaking and doing it alone is impossible. “Never underestimate the power of a small group of committed people to change the world. In fact, it is the only thing that ever has.” —Margaret Mead.
F1S: Why is the Business Bootcamp Weekend in Tampa so important?
Charlotte Jones-Burton: The events that collectively were a part of the 2022 WOCIP Business Bootcamp Weekend exemplify how WOCIP will realize its vision which is to transform the life sciences industry with women of color who have the power and influence to advance equity. During this weekend, we created time for the women to learn, reflect and renew their energy through different activities, including a one-day of workshops on a business topic—this year the topic was DEI programs, a community service event where we awarded $10,000 in scholarships to 4 Tampa high school students, Cafecito con Leche—a conversation with two Latina leaders, Sunday Brunch at a minority-owned restaurant and a golf clinic with LPGA coaches. In order for WOCIP to advance equity, it is important that we created weekends like this to ensure that we bridge our industry with our communities!