Director of Software Products,
This week, we were fortunate to sit down with Samantha Mason, Mission Bio’s Director of Software Products. Samantha helped found the Woman of Mission Bio group, otherwise known as WOMO. We were excited to speak to Samantha about how WOMO got started and some of the activities that have been happening this year.
Erin: What is WOMO and how did it start?
Samantha: My colleague and I were at the previous woman’s group at the company and there wasn’t a lot of participation. So, we started brainstorming on how we could revamp our group to be a little more exciting and inclusive so that the women would want to come to the meetings. We started calling ourselves Women of Mission Bio, and someone pointed out that the acronym was actually WOMB, so we thought that probably wasn’t appropriate. We changed the acronym to WOMO (Women of Mission Bio). We started working on the new format around October of 2020 and launched in December of that year.
One of our goals was to include every woman in the organization, and that includes international women. We have women across the world, and we also include all of our interns, so all women are eligible to participate in our meeting.
Erin: What goals do you have for WOMO?
Samantha: One of the goals that we started out with was to build a tighter team. We also wanted to build a safe space so that women could talk about issues that pertain to them. With COVID and most people being out of the office, we wanted to keep that connection. As it turns out, it’s actually been a very good way for people to connect. We have a large international group of women and WOMO has brought them closer to the corporate office and our headquarters.
We also didn’t want WOMO sessions to just be “another meeting.” We want the women to want to attend the meetings because they learn something, participate, and interact with other people. But the biggest thing that I wanted out of this group is for everyone to be treated equally. Our CEO is a female— she attends the meeting.
“We take those hats off in the meetings, and we are all regular women. It doesn’t matter your role, we want people to participate as much as possible.”
Erin: I think that’s great, especially as someone like myself who started out working at Mission Bio during the pandemic, everything’s been virtual, so I think this has really been a great opportunity for me and other people to get to know other women in the company and also feel connected, even though we are working virtually.
Samantha: I think WOMO also helps with networking— women’s networking. It is a great way for people to be able to keep that connection because they’re already working through Zoom, or Slack, or thorough other ways. So it’s going to be easy going forward to maintain that network.
Erin: What has WOMO done in its first few months?
Samantha: We initially brainstormed topics that women wanted to talk about, and some of the topics were actually pretty difficult topics, such as gender bias, whether it’s real or perceived.
“The first thing that we realized is that we had to build trust. Before women were going to talk about hard issues, we needed to build that trust.”
So far, we’ve had seven meetings. The first couple of meetings were about the name and the acronym, the mission statement, but since then we have set up some big projects. For instance, we have set up a mentorship program, and we currently have 25 pairs of mentors and mentees. That’s been a huge success. I’m actually a mentor to several people, and I’ve found it to be not only rewarding for me, but it helps our mentees grow in different areas.
We’ve had an external speaker come out (actually one of our investors), and she talked about work-life balance. That was nice to hear, especially from an executive of another company. It underscores that every woman faces challenges, it doesn’t matter what level of the organization she is in.
Our latest project was evaluating our personalities. The participants took an online personality test (DiSC) to understand how we work and how we communicate. But the best part for me was that it showed all of the different women in WOMO on a chart, so that you could see and interact with those who communicate like you, and those who communicate in ways that are the exact opposite to you.
Erin: What is different about Mission Bio’s Women’s group?
Samantha: When we first started WOMO, one of our goals was to make meetings that people wanted to go to. With Zoom, it is hard to interact, especially when you have a group of 35 to 40 women.
The first thing we did was implement breakout groups on Zoom, so that smaller groups of people could interact. For example, when we discussed our DiSC personality profiles, we broke into groups of people who had the same personality types. After the women talk in a small intimate setting, we come back and each group reports what was discussed. While one group has one idea, another group may have a different idea— so we actively share our different responses with the group.
Second, we have also taken into consideration different lab shifts and time zones so we can include everyone. We have different teams in the lab on different days, so we ensured WOMO didn’t interfere with the lab time of one specific team. We also took into account time zones, because we have had people in India, Spain, and Hawaii. We have set a time that was convenient for all of us. For other companies who are looking for a way to create a women’s group, I would say scheduling sessions where everyone feels included is extremely important.
The third point I would say is that the leadership team supports us 100%. When we asked for money for the DiSC personalities, there was no question. They said absolutely. In a session coming up, we have also asked for an external speaker.
“Leadership 100% supports us, and I think that’s what makes this work. It has visibility.”
Erin: What is your vision for WOMO for the next few years and beyond?
Samantha: When we set up WOMO, we came up with a format and we worked with the women in Mission Bio to come up with the topics. Before long, it will be the end of the year, so we need to do another round of the topics. I have co-led WOMO this year but will be turning over the reins to someone else who steps up. I think it’s important to give other women the opportunity to run this group, and let those who want to learn about leadership and take an active role. Doing so will generate fresh ideas and ensure we’re always moving forward.
Erin: I really look forward to seeing where WOMO goes. Thank you, Samantha, for chatting with us today. We really enjoyed talking to you, and we’re really looking forward to seeing where WOMO goes in the future.
Samantha: Thank you.