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International Women’s Day 2020

March 12, 2020
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In August of 2004, Penumbra took a significant step as a new start-up company in the medical device space. The company hired its first employee, an R&D engineer named Delilah Hui. Fifteen years later, Delilah, now an R&D manager, still works for the company that has since evolved into an industry leader, employing 2,700 people worldwide.

“Penumbra is an amazing company with friendly, talented people and a great, inviting culture. Everyone is able to work extremely well as a team” said Delilah, whose first project is a product Penumbra continues to market. “Since day one, I never grew tired of coming here because, to me, Penumbra isn’t just a place where I work, but it’s also like being a part of a family.”

Delilah was the first of many at Penumbra; today, women comprise more than 50% of its global workforce.

Penumbra CEO Adam Elsesser never made it an actual goal to recruit and hire women. As stated in an interview for NPR podcast Reveal, “I don’t think you will be successful if you’re trying to create a more diverse workforce for the goal of saying you’re creating a diverse workforce. It has to be something deeper than that. It has to just be what you do.”

Since 1911, International Women’s Day has been a day to celebrate the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. The day also marks a call to action for accelerating gender parity.

Additionally, we want to highlight our own female heroes. The women who are inspiring us to strive beyond the norm, and have inspired us with bravery, achievement, and passion. Whether it’s a scientist, a heroine from a favorite novel, or even our own mothers and daughters, these are the women that have lifted us up so that we could do the same for one another.

“Eva Zeisel – Born in Hungary in 1906, she pursued a career in arts and industrial design at a time when few women did so. She was later arrested and imprisoned under Stalin and survived solitary confinement. Eventually, she was released and escaped to the United States where she continued her career as a designer for companies such as Hall China. Her works are often a soft abstraction of nature, and in touching her designs you feel her consideration of function and the intimacy of the human touch in picking up an object to use every day. I admire her personal philosophy on life as well as her positive attitude even after what she survived. She lived to be 105.” – Elizabeth Sawyer Malinis, HR Specialist  

“Without a doubt, my mother. I am extremely grateful for my upbringing. I value her resilience, strength, and guidance to this day. She is a force to be reckoned with and the most nurturing grandmother to my children. She is my superhero.” – Clare McCrory, Hybrid Territory Manager 

Dr. Elizabeth Blackwell “[Dr. Elizabeth Blackwell] was a trailblazer, the first woman to get her medical degree in the U.S. in the mid-1800s. She was attracted to the challenge of it all and when she applied to medical schools she was vehemently denied since she was a female; only one college granted her the acceptance as a joke. Nevertheless, she persevered and withstood ridicule, torment, and discrimination by both students and professors who did not take her seriously until she graduated at the top of her class. Once she had the medical degree in hand, still no one would hire her as a physician.  

Did she give up? No! Dr. Blackwell went on to open her own clinic and infirmary for women and children in New York. She focused on obstetrics and gynecology and she led the way on personal hygiene and preventative care; particularly how the lack of handwashing between each patient by male physicians would spread epidemics (super relevant at the present moment in time).  

I love a strong woman who when pushed down only gets back up and continues stronger than before. I cannot imagine where we would be without her leadership and inspirational foresight to pave the way for women in medicine in this country.” – Carin Musak, Clinical Contracts Manager

“I would definitely say that my mom is my number one female hero! She is possibly the most hard-working, intelligent person I know, but also approaches every situation from a place of compassion. I’m constantly blown away by her kindness and wit, thoughtfulness and drive. I count myself as incredibly lucky to have her as my first and biggest cheerleader.” – Rachel Burton, HR Specialist

One of my heroes is Professor Sri Kurniawan at University of California Santa Cruz. She was the person who first introduced me to the importance of engineering, specifically for people with special needs; she is so passionate about helping people through technology and wasn’t afraid to try out of the box solutions for some of the most difficult problems the lab came across. She’s a fantastic advocate for women, diversity, and people with differing abilities in STEM and is a significant reason I chose to go in the direction I did and join a medical device company after graduation.

I had the honor of working with Sri for three years and I still look up to her as a role model for caring about patients, innovative solutions, and women in engineering.” – Maggie Pearce, Manufacturing Engineer II

Mother Teresa. She lived a life characterized by humble selflessness and genuine care for improving the lives of others. She set such an inspiring example of how to lead an impactful life.” – Alicia Martinez, HR Assistant Mother Teresa

“This is a quote I like most from Mother Teresa: ‘It is not how much we do, but how much love we put in the doing. It is not how much we give, but how much love we put in the giving.’” – Danielle Chu, General Manager

“One of my female heroes — in addition to my Mother, Oprah and Ellen — is Sara Blakely, founder and owner of Spanx. For those of you who don’t know, Spanx are shapewear for women. A hero inspires bravery and Sarah inspires me to solve problems of my own fruition rather than complain about the current solutions available. I adore that she felt and lived a gap in the market and came up with her own solution for it. Any great hero has a good origin story.Sara started out selling fax machines; she credits those door-to-door and cold calling skills she developed then with helping her get her first account for Spanx.

Sara is often quoted saying, ‘Don’t be intimidated by what you don’t know. That can be your greatest strength and ensure that you do things differently from everyone else.’ She challenges me to get out of my comfort zone and ask questions about the way things have always been done. There is a lot to be gained from the person in the room who has never been there and looks at the situation with fresh eyes.

A hero also helps others. Since the birth and expansion of her company, and after Spanx were recognized by Oprah as a Favorite Thing, she started her philanthropy initiative. The Sara Blakely Foundation is a non-profit that helps women through education and entrepreneurial training. She is inspiring as she balances her foundation, her company, and her family with four kids!! 

She jokingly claims to want to design the most comfortable high heel before she retires. From all of us at Penumbra who wear heels, I certainly hope she does, and I will be the first in line!”

– Karla Brustad, Manager of Strategic Accounts

“My female hero is Kim Clijsters, a Belgian professional tennis player. I’ve followed her career over the past 20 years and have seen her come back to form after both injury and starting a family. In 2009, she won the US Open as an unranked player following the birth of her daughter the year before. She won two more major titles before retiring in 2012, but has recently (last month) made another comeback to professional tennis. I’m rooting for her this year; her determination to succeed and realize her potential whilst being present as a mother to her three children is truly inspirational.” – Miranda Aldir, Product Manager

“Honestly, my female hero would be my old therapist. In her own life, she made a big career pivot and switched from being a dietician with UC Berkeley to going back to school and becoming a therapist. She made this switch in her late 40s! She helped me navigate through my own journey of being a woman, wanting to be good at my job, and also not wanting to compromise the compassion I want to share with humans I get to interact with.” – Belle Piansay, Recruiter

“My female hero would be Oprah Winfrey. She’s been a famous icon and role model since the 1980s. On a more personal level, I just started to really follow her last year through her podcast Oprah’s SuperSoul Conversations. I have many more episodes to listen through, but after every episode, I learned more about Oprah. Through her conversations with other people, it made me become more self-aware, optimistic in every circumstance I encounter daily, inspired to be a role model like her, and be an empowered individual that knows how to live her best life and genuinely love oneself and others. In small little ways, we can achieve and help a lot of people that come our way. In small conversations like these (even if it’s just a podcast), I and we can learn all kinds of valuable lessons that we can apply in our daily lives.” – Kathryn Cruz, In-House Clinical Research Associate

“My sister. She is a warrior of all kinds. Hard work, sincerity, being helpful and wearing a smile at all times is something I look up to.” – Divya Ramkumar, Recruiting Manager


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