A renowned C-level global branding and growth expert, Mary Stutts has provided strategic counsel in the biotechnology, healthcare, and media industries at Fortune 200 companies for more than 25 years. Currently the Senior Vice President of Corporate Relations for Sumitovant Biopharma, Stutts has a successful track record leading product marketing communications from early research to blockbuster status for brands like Genentech’s Avastin, Rituxan, Xolair, and Lucentis during a pivotal period of the company’s history when revenues and profit grew five-fold. She also serves as a member of the Advisory Board of Slone Partners.
Growing up as a foster child from the age of five, Stutts in 2004 founded The Center for Excellence in Life (TCEL), a 501(c)(3) organization focused on developing women and underrepresented youth aspiring to leadership positions. She later served as Chief Inclusion, Diversity, and Health Equity Officer at Stanford Health Care (SHC), where she worked directly with the SHC Board of Directors and executive committee to build and curate an inclusive leadership program for Stanford’s leaders.
Named one of Savoy Magazine’s 2019 Most Influential Women in Corporate America, Stutts earned a B.A. in Communications Management from the University of Louisiana, a Master’s Degree in Health Administration from the University of Southern California, and completed the Executive Program on Organization and Strategy at the Stanford Graduate School of Business. Her book, “The Missing Mentor: Women Advising Women on Power, Progress and Priorities,” is regularly listed among the top sellers on the topic of women in leadership.
Slone Partners: Your track record as a corporate relations leader across a wide range of industries is extremely impressive. In your experience, what are the personal and professional qualities that are most essential for achieving success in a competitive and oftentimes predominantly white male corporate setting?
Mary Stutts: Besides a strong business acumen, the most essential quality for achieving success is the ability to find and use your voice in such a way that you make sure you are heard. As an executive who has to bring about transformation and change in Fortune 500 companies through the strategic deployment of influence and persuasion versus mandates and directives, it is imperative that I strengthen my voice with relevant and meaningful data along with insights and strategic planning and execution.
Slone Partners: In your role as Chief Inclusion, Diversity, and Health Equity Officer at Stanford Health Care, it was your job to build the business case to maximize inclusion and diversity as key growth levers and brand enhancers. How best can organizations inculcate diversity and inclusion as core values, and achieve buy-in throughout all levels of the organization?
Mary Stutts: Companies must simultaneously take a top-down as well as grassroots frontline employee approach to maximizing inclusion and diversity as a key growth lever. Inclusion and diversity are no one person’s responsibility. They are the entire organization’s responsibility and therefore it is important that all voices in the organization are heard, equally valued, and equally accommodated in the I&D structure that is being developed. Inclusion and diversity have to be strategic values that are imperative to the very core of the entire enterprise. And companies must recognize that just because it is diverse does not mean it is inclusive in the sense that employees feel valued and respected, and are treated the same as everyone else with access to the same opportunities.
Slone Partners: The Black Lives Matter movement is serving as a powerful opportunity to shine the light on racially-based social and economic injustice in America. How can and should companies and organizations leverage this moment to expand and enhance their commitments to diversity, equity, and inclusion?
Mary Stutts: While it was encouraging to see so many companies issue statements decrying racial and social injustice during the times of massive Black Lives Matter protests around the world, it was disheartening to see so many of those same corporations later exposed as having no diversity of leadership or board representation. Companies have to do more than issue a statement and declare a holiday related to black culture. The door of truth is now open and the opportunity to truly address it and bring about real reform is here, and the world is watching. It is important for people in positions of power to be willing to listen and make changes. I tend to agree with one pundit who stated that “this is not a Black people problem and we can’t fix it. We are not the ones perpetrating the injustices. This is a white people problem and white people have to make the necessary changes to fix it so that the injustices stop.”
Slone Partners: Did you experience a particular ‘a-ha moment’ (or two) early in your career that had a significant impact on your subsequent career development? What lessons can other aspiring young women and/or Black executives heed from your experience?
Mary Stutts: The biggest aha for me that I believe most impacted my career was taking the time to listen to all of the voices in the organization – not just leadership, but also those on the front lines and all other levels in between. It provides you with valuable information that leaders may not know, which in turn makes them more predisposed to listen to you. The second biggest aha was being a risk taker. So often women are pegged as being risk averse, but if you do your due diligence to find out the pain points or gaps in an organization and take a risk to step up and address those “opportunities,” it will do amazing things for your confidence and your career.
Slone Partners: In your book, “The Missing Mentor: Women Advising Women on Power, Progress and Priorities,” you profile many powerful, accomplished women from all walks of life who have managed to forge successful career paths while also serving as mothers, wives, and respected members of their communities. What role do mentors play in helping cultivate the next generation of successful female leaders?
Mary Stutts: It is imperative for women who have climbed the career ladder to success to send the elevator back down to help others advance. While I have had some amazing male mentors, it is important for women to have some female mentors as well. There are just some places that men can’t go when it comes to mentoring women, especially when it comes to work-life choices and juggling timing and challenges around child-bearing, among other things. Women also face similar challenges in advancing their careers in male-dominated cultures and professions.
Slone Partners: You were raised as a foster child from the age of five. How did that experience shape your world view and affect your professional aspirations and subsequent career path?
Mary Stutts: My foster mother was a 5th grade school teacher and she instilled in me that people are valuable no matter what labels may have been put on them. She was one of the first teachers in the state of Louisiana to get credentialed in special education because she believed every child could learn. She then imparted these values on me. She also instilled in me at a very early age and consistently as I grew up that I had a voice. It was that ability to cultivate the power of my voice that made a tremendous impact on my life. It gave me confidence to pursue goals and roles that I otherwise might not have and shaped one of my major priorities in life—helping underrepresented and underserved people find and use their voices as well.
Slone Partners: What are the things you make time for in your personal life that bring you the most joy?
Mary Stutts: Spending time with my adult children, two toddler grandchildren, and my siblings and nieces and nephews – albeit virtually these days for most of them – brings me great joy. I also oversee the prayer ministry at my church, so leading prayer weekday mornings – again virtually – is also very enjoyable and helps me stay focused on achieving my goals and what I believe is my life purpose – which is helping others achieve theirs!