We asked Laura Webber, Chief Operating Officer and Co-Founder of HealthLumen, to share with us some insights on her experiences and how she draws inspiration from the environment around her, role models she had during her careers, practices or approach she has taken in their organisation to create a more inclusive workplace, and what does the slogan “Embrace Equity” means to her.
HealthLumen are specialists in quantifying the burden of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) into the future. Laura Webber is the COO & Co-founder of Health Lumen. Before co-founding HealthLumen, Laura was Director of Public Health Modelling at the UKHF. She led a multi-disciplinary team of epidemiologists, mathematicians, analysts, and computer programmers, working on global, European and national projects.
Voltedge: What is your current role and how long you have held this position?
Laura: I am the Chief Operating Officer and Co-Founder of Health Lumen since 2019.
Voltedge: Where do you draw inspiration from?
Laura: My grandmother was a single mother with 7 children. She had to work many jobs and give up her jobs during school holidays as there was no benefit system post-war. She grew up in an orphanage, so she had no family support. Yet, her children went on to have successful careers and families of their own. She was voracious, tenacious and a force to be reckoned with. She had strong political beliefs about doing the right thing, was anti-monarchy (i.e. privilege) and always spurred on ideals of competing on a ‘level playing field’.
Voltedge: During the course of your career, was there a role model or mentor that stands out for you?
Laura: Our business manager has always been a great mentor and I’ve worked with her for many years now. She has guided me through my career from researcher to manager and supported me in all aspects of people management. Despite being retired, she decided to join us in our HealthLumen venture and has become the matriarch of the company!
Another important mentor has been my colleague at the World Bank who has an incredible energy for getting the job done, works with great diplomacy, and pragmatism which have been important skills as I learn to navigate the world of business.
Voltedge: What does the slogan ‘Embrace Equity’ mean to you?
Laura: The slogan “Embrace Equity” is about a commitment to fairness by recognizing and addressing systemic barriers that prevent individuals from achieving their full potential. It means acknowledging and valuing diversity and striving for equal outcomes, opportunities, and access to resources for all people, regardless of their background, race, gender, or other identity factors.
It requires a willingness to confront and challenge inequality, bias, and prejudice, and to take action to promote inclusive and equitable practices and policies.
As a female in tech, from a less privileged background, achieving a place at Cambridge followed by a PhD, I recognise and value the importance of a level playing field and hope that I can support others in achieving their goals regardless of background.
Voltedge: What practices or approach have you taken in your organisation to create a more inclusive workplace?
Laura: As a small company, we focus on inclusive recruitment strategies and a well-balanced leadership team in terms of gender and ethnicity.
Voltedge: What is your favourite quote and why?
Laura: “One of the criticisms I’ve faced over the years is that I’m not aggressive enough or assertive enough or maybe somehow, because I’m empathetic, it means I’m weak. I totally rebel against that. I refuse to believe that you cannot be both compassionate and strong.” – Jacinda Ardern
I think this quote highlights the value of a different type of leader to the stereotypical, but one that can be equally, if not more successful.