by Zeynep Ilgaz, Chief Executive Officer of Confirm BioSciences
It’s no secret that many industries like tech and biopharma have struggled with diversity. In the annual 2017 Fortune 500 listing, including ten ranked biopharmaceutical companies, not one was led by a female CEO or had a female Chairman of the Board.
These companies aren’t just creating a gender gap – they are missing an opportunity to increase innovation and drive business growth by neglecting to deploy greater diversity throughout their organizations.
As CEO of Confirm BioSciences, creating diversity at all levels of the company has been a primary goal. With an almost 50 percent split between male (57%) and female (43%) employees, a diversity of ages of employees, with 30 percent identifying as Asian, 30 percent Hispanic/Latino, 13 percent Caucasian, and 27 percent Other, every aspect of our company’s make-up is diverse.
In our organization, diversity is a key ingredient for better decision-making among teams. We never discriminate in our hiring decisions and we make a concerted effort to bring unique individuals with varied backgrounds and perspectives into the fold. We foster a collaborative work environment where everyone is encouraged to bring ideas to the table and help lead the direction of the company.
Perhaps some of my focus on diversity comes from my own background. I came to the United States in 1998 as a Turkish immigrant with my husband Serhat Pala. We arrived with nothing but two suitcases, a love for each other, and a shared passion for entrepreneurship. My different cultural experiences than many others in the United States as well as being a woman have given me a distinct worldview from many other entrepreneurs.
When my husband and I first conceived the idea for Confirm BioSciences while working jointly on our final MBA project at San Diego State University, we saw an opportunity to create an at-home medical testing company in a growing market. However, we also recognized an opportunity to build a company with a unique mission to provide quality diagnostic testing and health and wellness solutions while keeping to our personal values of putting people first.
In 2008, we founded Confirm BioSciences and I became CEO. Diversity was a key part to both aspects of the company’s mission – growing its business and focusing on the people who work for the company.
Since its inception, Confirm BioSciences has taken corporate social responsibility very seriously, with five percent of our profits donated to homeless shelters each year. Giving back and volunteerism are central components of our company’s pillars, which bring us all together around an important common cause.
Still, as a growth-oriented company, we do care about driving value for investors. Interestingly, research has consistently shown that ethnic and cultural diversity among executive leadership, which Confirm BioSciences has, correlates with statistically significant higher company success.
In Confirm BioSciences’ case, we have absolutely proved this research to be true. Since the company’s founding, we’ve seen 2,000 percent revenue growth with 30 percent year-over-year growth. We’ve created 51 jobs to date with plans to hire for more than 50 additional positions over the next two years. And, we have become a leader in personal and professional health testing through innovative medical diagnostic products.
I believe that embracing diversity and highlighting existing employees at all levels, as well as empowering and promoting future leaders by reinforcing leadership opportunities, has enabled us to achieve these goals. Employees within our company are encouraged to be themselves, speak up during meetings, and maintain confidence as valuable contributors to our team. We engage all team members in driving important decisions and provide opportunities for all to contribute, learn and advance in their career.
Fostering diversity, team collaboration and an overall company culture that focuses on “people over profit,” has also landed Confirm BioSciences on Inc. magazine’s coveted “Best Workplaces” list for two years in a row. We stand out from thousands of companies as one of the best places to work because of these types of commitments to personal and professional growth, diversity and efforts to empower and inspire our team on all levels.
Most importantly though, having diversity in personnel, whether through differences in our team members’ ages, ethnicities, cultures, genders, areas of expertise, or levels of experience, helps facilitate diversity in innovation. And, as we all know, innovation is the true driver of business growth.
Zeynep Ilgaz is nothing short of a serial entrepreneur. Since emigrating from Turkey to San Diego with her husband and business partner Serhat Pala, Zeynep has amassed great success. In 2008, she established Confirm BioSciences, a global leader in quality diagnostic health & wellness testing solutions. As the Chief Executive Officer of Confirm BioSciences, she pioneers the development of proprietary labels for widescale retail and corporate distribution. Scaling her multi-channel infrastructure is Zeynep’s primary focus.