JPM17: OncoGenex CMO Cindy Jacobs Looks to WIB Boardroom Ready Program to Reach Goal

JPM17: OncoGenex CMO Cindy Jacobs Looks to WIB Boardroom Ready Program to Reach Goal January 9, 2017
By Alex Keown, Breaking News Staff

For the past several years Cindy Jacobs, chief medical officer of OncoGenex Pharmaceuticals , has wanted to serve on the board of directors of a company. The problem was, how did she go about finding a board?

For her, the answer came with the Women in Bio Boardroom Ready Program—an executive-level board certification training program. Jacobs and 19 other women spent five days during September and October at George Washington University honing the skills necessary to serve on a board of directors.

“This is a great program to break us in and assist us in networking and get us onto a board,” Jacobs said. As a chief medical officer, Jacobs said she was familiar with the workings of a board, having made presentations before hers on several occasions. Her awareness of how the board operated and the impact its decisions had on a company was what sparked her own desire to serve on one. Again, the question was “how do you go about it?”

Jacobs found out about the program from a colleague and decided to fill out the online application. Shortly thereafter, she said she received word that she was going to be part of the inaugural class. Like many, if not all, of the other women who signed up for the class, Jacobs saw the program as not only an opportunity to grow her own career, but to help continue to break glass ceilings for women executives.

“Diversity of boards make better boards because they will have a lot of different approaches and thought processes on how to proceed and issue a strategy and resolutions,” Jacobs said.

The idea of greater representation of women on boards of directors is nothing new. In 2007 Catalyst, a non-profit organization focused on the inclusion of women in business, authored “The Bottom Line: Corporate Performance and Women’s Representation on Boards” that noted companies with more women on the boards of directors show stronger financial performance. The sentiment of that report was shared by the women in the Boardroom Ready program. More recently, Jacobs said she attended a panel discussion about the importance of women being in senior management roles so they could be considered for boards.

“The more women role models that are in those positions will give other women the understanding that it can happen, that they can be incentivized to higher levels,” she said. “This isn’t a glass ceiling issue. You can break through, so it’s so important to try.” Jacobs said that not only was the training the Boardroom Ready program provided valuable, but also the long-term goal of placing each of the 20 women in the class on a board. “The insight and commitment of having this program, having it being inspired by Biogen’s ‘Raising the Bar’ program… to develop this initial board certification training program is very impressive,” Jacobs said.

The participants in the program have been assigned mentors to help guide them through the process of becoming a board member. Jacobs said it’s “highly impressive” to match the participants with mentors and provide assistance in getting on the first board.

“The assistance and the exposure helps all of us and raises awareness levels,” Jacobs said. “I’m proud to be part of this program.”

With a background in immunology, Jacobs said she hopes to secure a board position with a company in that field. “I want to be part of a startup in that field. I was born and raised at Immunex (acquired by Amgen in 2009 for $16 billion), part of the patent team for Enbrel. After being in oncology for so long, it would be fun to be back in immunology,” Jacobs said.

Once Jacobs secures a spot on a board of directors, she said she wants to go back and begin mentoring other women who participate in future Boardroom Ready classes.

“I want to help them by using my own experiences. I want to share what my experience was, what worked and what didn’t. I want to give back to this program,” Jacobs said.

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