Written By
Shernaz Daver

Dr. Sue Desmond-Hellmann has lived a lifetime of firsts. A physician-scientist by training, Sue was the first female chancellor at UCSF and the first woman to be on the Genentech executive committee. Her unbelievably impactful career covers two years of research in Africa during the AIDS pandemic; serving as CEO of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation; spearheading the development of a groundbreaking breast cancer drug at Genentech; holding board roles at Facebook and Pfizer; and being heavily involved in COVID-19 pandemic relief efforts.

Sue recently spoke with our GV Impact List 2021 leaders, openly sharing the stories and insights she has gained over four decades of breaking glass. In our chat, she explores what it's like to upend cultural norms, the importance of learning from — and learning to negotiate with — fierce leaders, the art of advocating for yourself, and tackling key issues like pay disparity and discrimination in the workplace. Humor, grace, and courage play a large part here.

"We look at leadership in gendered ways," says Sue. "Recognize that, and celebrate the qualities that people bring who aren't stereotypical as leaders. How wonderful the benefit is of that leadership, and the new things that these leaders bring, which are very different from what we've had in the past."