Story | Women in Business

Tina Larson Encourages Discomfort With Inequality

Feb. 2 2023

As the daughter of an electrical engineer, Tina Larson has been around engineers her entire life, but growing up, she never saw anyone who looked like her. She didn’t let that stop her from pursuing an education and career in STEM. Today, she is the president and chief operating officer of Recursion, a pharmaceutical company that uses biology to improve lives. In her role, Larson advocates for women in business and is a great example for women in STEM.

Early in her career, she sat in many rooms where she felt her voice was discounted because of her gender. While she’s grateful that experience happens less frequently today, she knows there are times when women’s viewpoints aren’t given the credence they deserve. “When this happens, it’s important to acknowledge the experience, then seek to understand it,” she said. “I encourage women to speak up for other women. The goal is to “make the system feel uncomfortable and be willing to inject that discomfort into the system for growth and change.”

That discomfort should extend to leadership teams as well. At Recursion, the goal is complete gender equality throughout the organization. In 2022, more than 40% of its workforce at every level was female or non-binary. While this is better than many companies, Larson says it makes her uncomfortable that the company still needs to meet its goal. “Embrace that discomfort because that’s the discomfort that’s going to drive us to continue to get better and achieve our goals,” she adds. “I think other business leaders should be uncomfortable.”

She cites both social and business cases in advocating for equality and inclusion. From a social standpoint, an inclusive workplace that brings diverse perspectives creates a positive work environment. From a business standpoint, research and data indicate that more diverse teams achieve better results. People need to feel their perspectives are valued and appreciated.

For companies looking to be inclusive to women, Larson says to start by looking at what’s important to women. That can mean offering childcare or a place for women to voice their opinions or speak about issues impacting them. Employers should also change how they view women. Larson doesn’t subscribe to the concept that she can be an executive OR a mom, and she doesn’t think anyone else should either. “it’s not just good for women that we have moved past “you’re either this or that,” she adds. “It’s good for all parents and society that women can be incredibly successful in business and raise a family.”

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