As a business analyst in the San Francisco Bay Area, Lauren Trusheim is familiar with male-dominated workplaces.
“Coming from a data analytics and consulting background, I’m accustomed to being the only woman in the room,” Lauren explains.
So when she learned about 23andShe, a 23andMe Employee Resource Group (ERG) dedicated to women’s personal and professional growth, she jumped at the chance to get involved.
“Joining 23andShe seemed like the perfect way to build connections with my new 23andMe colleagues and give back to the community,” she says.
23andShe, which was founded last year, promotes community involvement and empowerment through a series of programs, educational events, and volunteer opportunities. Like other 23andMe Employee Resource Groups, it provides a place for employees with shared interests, experiences, or characteristics to gather and build community.
“It’s a space for women to come together and learn from each other,” Lauren says. “Fostering a strong support system is essential for happiness and success both personally and professionally.”
In celebration of Women’s History Month, we asked Lauren and three other members of the 23andShe leadership team to reflect on the impact of the group and their hopes for the future.
What inspired you to get involved with the 23andShe Employee Resource Group?
Lauren Trusheim (she/her), Business Analyst: When Lemonaid Health was acquired by 23andMe, I was excited to learn about 23andShe! Throughout my career, I’ve actively sought out opportunities to connect with fellow women and learn from their experiences.
Melinda King (she/her), Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion: I thought it was a great opportunity to leverage the voice of women within 23andMe and to make certain that issues that are important to women have an appropriate platform.
Sophia Majeed (she/her), Principal Clinical Scientist: I think it’s important for us to have a space to discuss topics and challenges that are specific to women and propose solutions to improve our workplace experience.
Women’s workplace issues often make headlines, from the increasing burden of childcare and domestic responsibilities on women during the pandemic to the gender pay gap, and it’s not unreasonable to assume that these same issues may impact women who work at 23andMe.
I see the women’s ERG as a space where we can advocate for positive change for women at the company in an inclusive way that recognizes and celebrates our diversity.
Tracy Keim (she/her), Vice President, Consumer Marketing and Brand: I love groups founded by women, for women. I love hearing about other women’s journeys and stories and learning from them.
Investing in each other makes us stronger – time, support, listening, advocating, allyship – it’s more important now than ever to build even stronger bonds between women at work.
New 2021 McKinsey data shows that the impact of COVID-19 on women who work has been reversed. We need to be sponsors of each other!
Do you ever find that your gender impacts your daily life?
Lauren Trusheim: Unfortunately, we live in a world primarily designed by and for (cis, white) men. We see this pop up in office temperatures, bathroom lines, and even the notorious underfunding of women’s health research.
Living in a society that still largely revolves around the needs and preferences of men has contributed to my habit of always accommodating others and reinforced my people-pleasing tendencies.
Luckily, awareness about these inequalities and their impact on women continues to increase. I’m thankful to have ERGs like 23andShe that provide a platform for highlighting issues that impact women.
Melinda King: The way that I walk through most interactions in my daily life are impacted by the fact that I am a woman of color. The intersection of those two communities means I have to decide how to show up in spaces that were not designed for me and then navigate to get the outcome that works for me.
Sophia Majeed: Often, when people find out that I am a Muslim woman, I am subjected to negative stereotypes and assumptions. It’s not ‘popular’ to advocate for the rights of Muslim women, even as we see governments across the globe profile us and implement laws to take away our freedom to practice our faith.
We are often portrayed as victims who have no agency or control over our fate (it just so happens that most Muslim women I know are intelligent, brilliant, fierce, and independent!). When I told my principal investigator in grad school that I was expecting a baby, she asked me if my husband would even let me work. The stereotypes are tiring.
What makes you feel proud to be a woman?
Lauren Trusheim: I have been lucky to have a wide variety of women mentors, friends, and colleagues in my life, all of whom are inspiring and supportive. They are breaking glass ceilings in their respective fields, balancing work and personal lives with grace, and are open about the failures and lessons they’ve learned along the way.
I am constantly inspired by the grit, tenacity, diversity, and supportiveness of my fellow women.
Melinda King: Just looking around at all the women who have worked against all the odds to do incredible things for themselves and their communities. Whenever I think it can’t be done, I see someone do it, and it makes me incredibly proud.
I think about the women in my family and all the challenges they faced, yet they continued to thrive. Having a family of strong women is extremely empowering.
“By showcasing the diversity of women, 23andShe can help challenge assumptions and stereotypes and create a space for women from all backgrounds.”
Sophia Majeed: I feel most proud to be a woman when I reflect upon how resilient we are and have been throughout history. The women leading Civil Rights movements in the U.S. and abroad inspire me.
I also take great pride in the women in my life, my mentors, friends, and family who have overcome immense challenges to become leaders in their fields and have driven important societal changes to make things better for all people.
Tracy Keim: I feel proud to be a woman when I think about all the brave women who spoke up and created the Times Up and the MeToo movement.
I felt proud to be a woman when Naomi Osaka courageously put her career on hold before burnout, then graced the cover of TIME and said to the world, “it’s o.k. to not be o.k.”
I felt proud to be a woman when I read Emily Chang’s book Brotopia and saw she was not afraid of taking on the tech industry.
I felt inspired to be a better woman and ally after reading Dr. Brittney Cooper’s book Eloquent Rage, which provided my first real exposure to and awareness of what it’s like to be a Black woman today.
I felt proud to be a woman when I saw the first female Vice President take office, shattering a glass ceiling I hope many young women can climb through.
What can people do to raise awareness about the issues impacting women today?
Melinda King: There are so many issues. I think it’s important to simply research all the opportunity gaps that exist for women and then think about how you can help close that gap in your personal and professional life.
The pay gap is always a troubling one because the problem is compounded each time women aren’t paid properly, and it impacts their financial security long term. I think that’s an issue that constantly needs focus.
Sophia Majeed: Having transparent conversations about issues that impact women is a good starting point. Also, sharing data and statistics for women in leadership positions across different parts of the company to identify any gaps. I hope that 23andShe will provide a space to have candid conversations.
How is 23andShe making a difference?
Lauren Trusheim: I hope to build a community that supports each other during tough times and celebrates each others’ successes. I’m also looking forward to raising awareness about issues impacting women and educating our colleagues through speaker series and other events.
Sophia Majeed: I hope that by showcasing the diversity of women, 23andShe can help challenge assumptions and stereotypes and create a space for women from all backgrounds.
Tracy Keim: I hope our group can help make a difference by creating the space for learning, connecting, and understanding real issues women face today. I believe we can positively impact each other while also encouraging a strong culture of allyship.
I also hope men join the conversation through the ERG’s programming to foster real change, understanding, and empathy. Men are part of the solution.
What books, podcasts, movies, and other resources do you recommend for those who want to dive deeper?
Melinda King: I’ve been reading a lot from the author Bell Hooks. She helped me to understand how the original women’s movement lacked true focus around how to include the needs of all women. Two of her books, Feminist Theory: From Margin to Center and Ain’t I a Woman, provide an informative look back at the feminist movement.
Tracy Keim: The MAKERS organization has some of the best speakers covering topics such as intersectionality, equal pay, women’s rights, and more.
Additionally, McKinsey has an incredible amount of data tracking women in the workplace and issues we face today. And one of my favorite documentaries, Not Done, is incredibly inspirational to see the progress made by women in history with the reminder that we are not done!