Meet the Women Leading the Initiatives

Creating real and lasting social impact requires grit, innovation, and the courage to push boundaries. In honor Women’s History Month, Handshake is proud to highlight female executives committed to innovating, inspiring, and solving some of the world’s most pressing societal challenges.  

From leading private sector D&I policies, the COVID-19 vaccine rollout, and launching widely recognized movements for advancing equality, these women embody what it means to be an Impact Executive.  

Read more about their leadership below:  

Dr. Kathrin Jansen, Senior Vice President and Head of Vaccines R&D, Pfizer  

Meet Dr. Kathrin Jansen, one of the many masterminds behind Pfizer’s 90% effective COVID-19 vaccine. Dr. Kathrin U. Jansen, PhD, is Senior Vice President and Head of Vaccine Research and Development at Pfizer Inc, and a member of Pfizer’s Worldwide Research and Development leadership team.  

Prior to Dr. Jansen’s tenure at Pfizer, she held executive positions at Vaxgen and Merck Research Laboratories where she led late-stage development programs. More notably, Dr. Jansen led the development of Gardasil®, the world’s first cervical cancer vaccine. In 2017, the CDC found that HPV vaccination rates were increasing as more adolescents are up to date on HPV vaccination. Further, finding that nearly 50% of 13–17-year-old females received the first dose of the vaccine series.  

Most recently, under Jansen’s leadership, Pfizer collaborated with BioNTech to create a COVID-19 vaccine that uses ribonucleic acid. No mRNA vaccine has ever been approved for use, until now.  

Read more about Katherine Jansen here.   

Aurora James, Founder, 15 Percent Pledge  

Meet Aurora James, the founder of fashion label, Brother Vellies, committed to keeping African methods and designs, and founder of the 15 Percent Pledge.  

In the wake of the civil unrest across America in 2020, James created the 15 Percent Pledge, a nonprofit advocacy organization which became a movement that urged major retailers to commit a minimum of 15% of their shelf to Black-owned businesses, in alignment with the size of the Black population in the US, while offering consulting services to help these corporations reach that goal. 

While Sephora and Rent the Runway were some of the first companies to pledge, over the last 9 months the pledge has recruited more than 20 companies including Macy’s, West Elm, Vogue, Yelp, and Crate and Barrel. The 15 Percent Pledge serves as catalyst for companies to share their values on racial justice as well as a platform that creates equitable business pathways for Black-owned small businesses and Black entrepreneurs.  

In 2020, James was named one of this year’s Bloomberg 50 — an annual list of innovators, entrepreneurs, and leaders who have changed the global business landscape over the past year.  

Read more about Aurora James and the 15 Percent Pledge here

Ebony Beckwith, EVP & Chief Philanthropy Officer, Salesforce 

Meet Ebony Beckwith Chief Philanthropy Officer and Executive Vice President, Marketing at Salesforce. Beckwith directs programs and strategic grants focused on education and workforce development. She is responsible for engaging 45,000 employees in community service opportunities, administering millions of dollars in grants to improve communities around the world, and leading marketing for 

Locally, Beckwith has led partnerships with San Francisco Unified School District (SFUSD) and Oakland Unified School District (OUSD); since 2013, has given more than $67 million dollars and adopted 100+ schools, as well as provided teacher training, technology and infrastructure to Bay Area schools in need.  

Beckwith has been recognized as one of San Francisco Business Times’ Most Influential Women in Bay Area Business, as well as one of San Francisco Business Times’ Beyond the Check award recipients two years in a row. She was also honored with the 2016 Rising Star Award. 

Read more about Ebony Beckwith here 

Hannah Jones, President of Nike Valiant Labs, Nike 

Meet Hannah Jones, Founder and President of Nike Valiant Labs and former Chief Sustainability Officer at Nike. With a more than 20-year tenure at Nike, Jones helped transform the company’s labor rights and sustainability efforts and positioned it as a global leader in social innovation. In her former role of Chief Sustainability Officer, Jones’ goal was to rethink how the company used materials, methods of make, products & business models, using unique innovation capabilities that are applied to solving complex sustainability challenges. 

Today, Jones is the President of Nike Valiant Labs, a venture she founded to create an in-house business incubator to foster a culture of lean startup, human centered design and entrepreneurialism to Nike. Valiant Labs has a growing portfolio of new disruptive digital businesses and offerings with purpose at their core. 

As a senior female executive, Hannah has championed diversity & inclusion in the workplace. She served on Nike’s Executive Diversity and Inclusion committee, while founding the League of Badass Women, a global network of women dedicated to redefining leadership and supporting women and intersectional communities as they navigate the workplace of today. 

Jones was named twice to Fast Company’s top 100 Creative People list, was a recipient of the World Economic Forum Young Global Leader award and was the winner of the C.K Prahalad 2013 award for leadership in Sustainability. 

Read more about Hannah Jones here 

Dr. Shola Mos-Shogbamimu, Political and Women’s Rights Activist  

Meet Dr. Shola Mos-Shogbamimu a political and women’s rights activist and a teacher of intersectional feminism to female refugees and asylum seekers. An attorney by trade, Dr. Shola has great expertise in the financial services industry and as a writer, public speaker, and political commentator. 

Dedicated to empowering women globally, she also is the founder and editor of the Women in Leadership publication, a digital publication that drives positive change through its inspirational thought- leadership, insightful commentary, support and advice for women who are at all stages of their leadership journey; women who are, or who aspire to be, the best in their chosen field.  

A champion for gender and diversity inclusion, Dr. Shola founded She@Law Talks, an initiative to promote more women and BAME leadership in the legal profession. She draws from her own experience and shares insights on entering the legal profession, breaking down myths about women. In her recent book, This Is Why I Resist; Don’t Define My Black Identity, Dr. Shola discusses the deep roots of racism and anti-blackness in the UK and the US. Using real life examples from the modern day, she shows us the different forms racism takes in our day-to-day lives and asks us to raise our voice to end the oppression. 

Read more about Dr.Shola Mos-Shogbamimu and Women In Leadership here 

Michelle Milford Morse, Vice President for Girls and Women Strategy, the United Nations Foundation  

Meet Michelle Milford Morse, The United Nations Foundation (UNF) Vice President for Girls and Women Strategy. Morse leads various global efforts to promote gender equality and women’s rights in collaboration with the UN and its partner ecosystem. During her tenure at UNF, Morse works with private sector and civil society partners such as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and UNICEF USA to tackle pressing global health and development issues, such as, childhood development, regulatory action on HIV treatment, maternal mortality, mother-to-child HIV transmission, and violence against children.  

More recently, Morse authored a piece for The Hill, drawing attention to the significant uptick in domestic violence against women and girls due to the COVID-19 pandemic. To combat the rise in cases, Morse asks for more men as well as the private sector to become allies in order to challenge social norms.  

Read more about Michelle Milford Morse here.  

Petra Dizdar, Managing Director and Partner, Handshake Partners  

Meet Petra Dizdar, Managing Director and Partner at Handshake Partners, where she leads the consulting practice at Handshake and oversees a team that provides strategic counsel, executive positioning, partnership development, and market intelligence to companies seeking to integrate social impact into their core business.  

Dizdar uses her passion for greater social good to bridge the gap between private, public and cause sectors, and helps courageous leaders build values-driven organizations that address some of the most important global challenges. Prior to joining Handshake, she spent her career working in corporate crisis and reputation management with some of the world’s largest brands in the U.S. and Asia.  

Read more about Petra Dizdar and her work here