What would you do if you didn’t work in healthcare?

Sometimes I think I’d be happy to go back to where this all started for me and resume my “prior life” as a university professor. Other times, I think that I would go into research — maybe focusing on individual or organizational behavior. And, every once in a while, I have a wild thought to leave all structure and just travel the world taking candid photos of people at airports for a coffee table book! No matter what, engaging with people — teaching them, understanding them, learning from them — is something I want as a part of my life.

Can you give a shout-out to someone who helped you at a pivotal time in your career? 

I am lucky to have had several people play critical roles — and it all starts with my mother. She was the one who pushed me to make a future for myself (“money without independence is nothing”). Additionally, my uncle defied the norm, financially supporting me to leave home and study something “wild” like statistics. My husband did so much in my early career, playing the role of primary caregiver to our daughter, Anshal, and allowing me to build the firm of which she is now president. My grandson, Rain, has taught me most recently about calm and introspection. And I’m grateful to two notable mentors — Ed Donahoe, who believed in me from the start, and Dr. Richard Hutchinson, who pushed me to seek tenure at such a young age.

Work to live, or live to work?

I used to live to work — for me it was a matter of survival. I, a brown woman speaking English as a fourth language, was a partner in an agency. That was a challenge 37 years ago, and I had to work hard to get and keep business. Now, the dynamic has flipped. I work to live because I can afford to. The firm has strong senior leadership, such as [CFO] Kim Hogen and [VP, strategic planning] Jen Clark, and, under Anshal’s charge, is evolving to stay ahead of the curve and find more success than ever.

Share a moment when you left your comfort zone; what did you learn?

Early in my career, I was asked to pitch concepts to a senior executive at a large pharma company. We were a small agency with a big idea, and I was new to presenting. It was nerve-racking, to say the least. After the presentation, the client pulled me aside to affirm that the idea was good, and to tell me that I should keep “thinking big.” I learned that with hard work and good ideas, being out of your comfort zone is OK, and that presenting with confidence and passion matters more than perfect execution.

What do you find frustrating about working in healthcare marketing?

There are very few people who want to risk thinking outside of the box. For the most part, the system still rewards conservative, unimaginative, or “copycat” thinking, and it is hard not to imagine the impact we could have if given the opportunity to really push boundaries or think about problems and solutions differently.

To ensure pay parity and career advancement for women, I will …

Always have a gender-neutral pay scale (we currently have a core team of women with pay parity); encourage and mentor women to achieve their full potential; support and mentor women in how to ask for what they deserve; support women as they navigate motherhood and the workplace; remember my roots and remember the difficulties faced by women and minorities; lead by example; encourage my colleagues to do the same

What is one thing you would tell young women starting their careers in healthcare marketing?

We have come a long way, but we have a long way to go. Now is our opportunity to support each other and prove that we can do it all — and more.

Which three people, alive or dead, would you like to host at a dinner party, and why?  

I would host three women who are notable for their brilliance, hard work and shattering of the glass ceiling, each in their own right.

Wangari Maathai, a renowned Kenyan social, political and environmental activist. She was the first African woman to win a Nobel prize and held dearly to the belief that “African women need to … see the way they are as a strength, and to be liberated from fear and from silence.”

Angela Merkel, Chancellor of Germany, who I think is summed up by her quote: “The question is not whether we are able to change, but whether we are changing fast enough.”

Indra Nooyi, former CEO of PepsiCo, consultant and member of Amazon’s board of directors. She has countless career successes and lives by the motto: “An important attribute of success is to be yourself. Never hide what makes you, you.”