In November, 2017, the world’s largest breast cancer organization, Susan G. Komen®, named Paula Schneider as its President and CEO. The seasoned business executive and breast cancer survivor brings more than 30 years of leadership experience with retail brands American Apparel and Warnaco Swimwear Group, as well as strategic advisory roles at a private equity firm.
Keep reading to learn more about Paula and Susan G. Komen’s Bold Goal to reduce breast cancer. Let’s Take 5 with Paula!
- What intrigued you about Susan G. Komen, and enticed you to join its leadership team? In many ways, I’ve been preparing for this job since 2007 when I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I continued to be either a CEO or a strategic advisor to major companies, but when I was approached about this position last year, I leapt. I’m a breast cancer survivor, my mother died of metastatic breast cancer, and I have daughters. I’m thrilled to be in a position to drive Komen’s Bold Goal to reduce current breast cancer deaths by 50 percent in the U.S. by 2026. We’re doing this through enhanced research into lethal breast cancers, and through a health equity initiative that will level the playing field for women of color, low-income, uninsured women and men, and others who face significant barriers to quality breast cancer care. I’m at a place in my life and my career where I’m able to devote my full energy to achieving the Susan G. Komen mission to end breast cancer, forever and for everyone, and that’s thrilling for me.
- As a breast cancer survivor, what particular insights do you bring to Komen? I’ve been there, and that helps in ways that you can’t really measure. I know the fear of the diagnosis. I know the pain and uncertainty. I know the confusion. I know the worries about your family. I was so much more fortunate than many of the women and men we serve, because I had high-quality care, good insurance, a supportive husband and family. So many women and men don’t have those benefits, and the constant fear over money, or losing a job, or not being able to access the healthcare system – these all contribute to higher mortality. In fact, our scientific advisers tell us that we can reduce breast cancer deaths in this country by 30 percent just by making sure that everyone has access to and receives high-quality care. So we’re working to remove barriers in key ways: We’re addressing appalling disparities in outcomes for African-American women, who are more than 40 percent more likely to die of breast cancer than white women in the U.S. We’re working legislatively to increase funds for biomedical research and to ensure access to screenings and affordable treatment for women and men who are underserved.
- Which person has had the most influence on your career? Angela Ahrendts (Senior Vice President, Retail, Apple). She was my boss when I had my first president’s role. She was kind and smart and has a great sense of humor. She is now one of the top executives at Apple and they are lucky to have her.
- From your perspective, what is the biggest challenge facing nonprofits today? That’s a very broad question because nonprofits cover a wide range of social causes, but in our area – breast cancer – the biggest challenge is making sure that people understand that this disease is killing 41,000 people a year. Another quarter million are diagnosed every year. About 154,000 women and men are living today with incurable breast cancer – metastatic disease, or breast cancer that has spread from the breast to other organs and bones. We’re in a race to save those lives. Breast cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in women in the United States. It wreaks havoc on women, men and families. We absolutely must keep telling this story so that people understand that this is a serious, deadly disease, taking too many people every year, and it is not cured yet.
- Five fun facts about Paula:
- Favorite App: Hulu
- Last book read: Forget You Had a Daughter, by Sandra Gregory. A true story about a young woman who ended up in a Thai prison and how she dealt with very harsh realities.
- Hobby: Playing tennis
- Place to Unwind: Los Angeles with my daughters and my friends
- Guilty pleasure: Watching Madame Secretary