Get Familiar With The Female-Led Org. Keeping Corporate Diversity Initiatives Accountable To The Public

Female Founded, Female Led company CEOs (Dr. Sophia Yen furthest to right) at the 2020 SheEO Summit. Image by Dahlia Katz.

We’re all familiar with diversity initiatives and what they can potentially represent. Especially in the corporate environment, where we see a huge lack of women in leadership, and especially minority women, companies far and wide have latched onto the idea of diversifying their executive teams to appear more inclusive. No one wants to appear to be on the wrong side of history, but how far do appearances go? What happens when the spotlight is taken off a company or an initiative? If we opened up the boardroom doors again, would the publicly-stated push for diversity still be around?

The idea of cosmetic diversity paying lip service to the very real and important push for equality in the workspace is something that should be talked about more, and one organization was formed to keep companies accountable, while also helping people find the companies and orgs that have authentic, diverse and inclusive leadership.

Female Founded, Female Led, or FFFL, is a campaign to encourage consumers to shop at businesses that are owned and operated by women. This initiative was founded by Dr. Sophia Yen, founder and CEO of the birth control startup Pandia Health, to address the issue of companies with white male founders swapping in women and POC CEOs to appear more diverse. Dr. Yen is hoping that this directory will help women achieve true parity in business. As a physician running the only doctor-led birth control startup online, Dr. Yen also notes the importance of having experts in a given field running companies, rather than serial CEOs. 

With the recent revelations of the “Girlboss” culture being exposed for nothing more than capitalistic and toxic work environments with a “feminist” label slapped on to appear more palatable or empowering to women, initiatives like FFFL are so needed.

We had the opportunity to speak with Dr. Yen about FFFL (pronounced “full”) as well as Pandia Health and the significance of being a woman of color physician committed to reproductive freedom running a birth control startup. In short, she is the kind of badass that we want in our corner and want to take notes from. Read on!

Dr. Sophia Yen

How did the idea for Female Founded, Female Led first come about? 

It was frustrating to me as the ONLY Women Founded, Women Led company in birth control delivery that women didn’t know that all the competitors (at the time) were all men CEOs and men founders.

And I read Kristof and WuDunn’s book “Half The Sky” where women hold up half the sky. And I wanted the sky to be full and our hearts to be full. And came up with “FFFL” = Female Founded, Female Led.

To get consumers to ask Who is the CEO? Who is the founder? Given 2 equal companies, maybe choose the Female Founded, Female Led one.

What is the mission behind it, and why is it necessary right now?

The mission: To increase consumer awareness of the founders, CEOs that they are supporting through their purchases/business. To increase the funding/success of Female Founded, Female Led companies by increasing their customers. 

Femtech and telemedicine is booming! Consumers need to be educated about which companies they choose to give their business/money to. Funding to Female Founded companies went down by 27% in 2020.

It’s time for women and those that support women to put their money where their values are!

Why should more companies care about diversity across the board, and how can it improve things? 

Companies with diversity on the boards and in their companies do better. More ideas = a better product.

Having three or more women on a company’s board of directors helps companies perform better financially, the financial planning firm MSCI said in a paper in March 2018.

A recent paper published by Professor Marc Goergen of IE Business School in Spain has identified a direct connection between corporate boards with a high concentration of female directors and a firm’s greater renewable energy consumption. Women on boards would seem to be a good thing for planetary health.   

He has also released research indicating that a female presence on the board can curb excessive risk-taking by men, by tempering the overconfidence of males.  

Why do you think there is still so much reluctance to committing to diversity, despite the overwhelming results showing it is a positive thing?

People in power don’t want to give it up. People in power don’t realize what they are missing out on. Consumers don’t realize how bad it is = that all the companies they are giving money to are run by men. We need more companies that value having women at the table versus just making money off women. Women need to demand a seat at the table and support Female Founded, Female Led companies.

You are a founder of a company – Pandia Health. The only Doctor-led birth control startup. Why is it particular important to have experts such as yourself running companies that cater to women’s health, and specifically reproductive health? 

I live, breathe, eat, and prescribe birth control. I have a passion for making women’s lives better. I’m a woman and I have 2 daughters. I want to make the world better for all those with uteri. I want my daughters to have an even playing field and equal chance at success, at leadership.

Do you want to choose a company whose leadership doesn’t understand what it is like to worry about running out of birth control? To risk pregnancy? To suffer through menopause?

You want expert care by expert doctors. Help/support/back the CEO/Founder that is here to make women’s lives better and not just to maximize profit. Don’t skimp on your healthcare. 

With the relentless conservative onslaught of anti-abortion, anti-trans, and anti-healthcare access bills being introduced across the US in 2021, how are startups like Pandia stepping in to change the landscape of access? 

We bring birth control to wherever you have internet and a mailbox. We are bringing expert care, convenience, and confidentiality.

However, consumers still have to vote for, donate to, and volunteer for candidates and elected officials that support birth control access and LGBTQ rights. Check out EMILY’s list (helps to elect prochoice, democratic women at the national level) and similar groups (Emerge, Ignite[empowering high school and college women to get politically active]). 

Do you think the reproductive landscape would look different right now in the US if more women of color were in charge of legislators, healthcare and medical companies?

Definitely! The world would be better if women were at least half of the legislators and CEOs/executives of healthcare/medical companies. And we need equal representation in the C suites of people of color.

What is the message FFFL hopes to communicate with customers with your campaign? 

Please ASK who is the founder? Who is the CEO? And put your money where your values are. Please choose Female Founded, Female Led, when given the option.

Finally, what makes you a powerful woman?  

Power is the ability to effect change. I founded FFFL “full” to increase support of Female Founded, Female Led companies. We founded Pandia Health to make women’s lives better. My latest campaign is to share #PeriodsOptional with anyone with a uterus (know you don’t have to bleed each month unless you want to make a baby that month. See my TEDx talk on the bottom of this page

Hopefully all of these things will effect change in a positive manner. Leave the world better than when you came into it. Do good. 

To learn more about FFFL and take a look through the directory of companies they vouch for, click HERE.

Dr. Sophia Yen (third from left) with Female Founded, Female Led company CEOs.