Countless chronic conditions—from heart disease to diabetes and high blood pressure—have a disproportionate impact on people of color. But what role can precision health play in closing these gaps and increasing diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) across the healthtech industry?
Here, One Drop’s DEI program manager, Julia Dixon, shares how the company’s internal dedication to DEI translates to better health outcomes for all One Drop members.
Allie Strickler: What sparked your initial interest in DEI work?
Julia Dixon: As an African-Caribbean woman born and raised in Brooklyn, I was always interested in getting into DEI work. Growing up, I had a predominantly Black experience, which is something I take a lot of pride in. I’m also a proud alum of Virginia State University, a historically Black college/university (HBCU). As a student there, I felt a sense of belonging, and I felt celebrated as a Black woman. For once, I was part of a majority instead of a minority. But that changed once I started my initial career path in hospitality. It was during that time that I experienced what it really meant to be “othered” and viewed as a minority.
Once I transitioned to healthtech and joined One Drop, though, I really felt a sense of belonging and overall acceptance. I felt it throughout the interview process, even in my first meetings with Jeff Dachis, our CEO and founder, and I still feel it now. I want to ensure that that sense of belonging is upheld, and that’s what I try to do with our DEI program.
Allie Strickler: Tell me more about One Drop’s DEI program and your day-to-day in leading it.
Julia Dixon: Our mission is simple: We want to create a diverse, inclusive, and equitable experience for everyone. We started the program to create a safe space for all employees, across all levels and all departments—a space for everyone to feel as though they can bring their true selves to work.
Our DEI program provides resources for everyone, from One Drop members to employees. Internally, we have seven active employee resource groups (ERGs), each of which has its own unique core values: Our Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) ERG’s core values are awareness and support; our Afro ERG’s core values are community, innovation, and representation; the Here and Queer ERG focuses on action, compassion, and empathy. We also have an ERG for immigrants, with core values that emphasize education and support. The Latinx ERG’s values include culture and authenticity, while the Parents ERG focuses on pride and balance, and the Women ERG’s values are mentorship and self-care.
My day-to-day varies; sometimes I’m leading our DEI council meetings, which includes all the leaders of our ERGs—or, as we like to call them, our ERG Champions. Other times I’m managing events or planning for the year ahead as we grow into other areas of the digital health space (including women’s health and oncology), and considering what that all looks like from a DEI lens.
Allie Strickler: What are some of your favorite DEI initiatives that you’ve led or otherwise participated in?
Julia Dixon: One of my favorite initiatives was when we did a Lunch and Learn session with Dame Dash, co-founder of Roc-A-Fella Records alongside Jay-Z and Kareem Burke, who also lives with type 1 diabetes. We learned about his contributions as an African American man in the music industry who lives with a chronic condition, and we gained a better understanding of who he is as a person. It was very interactive!
We also recently had a guided internal discussion on the film, Hidden Figures, which explores the lives of three African American women who worked at NASA and played integral roles in the success of early spaceflight. The overall purpose of that event was to highlight some of the uncomfortable topics in the movie, including unconscious bias, what that bias looks like, and how we can combat it in our own lives.
Another great DEI initiative from this past year was the wordsmith workshop we hosted on Juneteenth, which was really focused on education. We came together to collaborate and draft up an internal company announcement about Juneteenth—including the history behind why we celebrate the holiday, as well as different ways to celebrate now—all while sharing delicious takeout from Britt’s Kitchen, a Black-owned restaurant in New York.
I loved our Juneteenth initiative because, even as an alum of an HBCU, sadly, the holiday wasn’t something we were very knowledgeable about at the time that I attended college. It was amazing to see my colleagues here at One Drop—many of whom also weren’t that familiar with the holiday before our workshop—learn more about what Juneteenth means to our culture and what it can mean to our allies.
Allie Strickler: What are some DEI initiatives that you’re excited about for 2022?
Julia Dixon: We’re currently working on launching a company-wide mentorship program next year, which we hope will ensure that we’re providing a space for growth within the company, including the conversations that help you get to those next steps in your career.
We’ll also be hosting more guided discussions and workshops to learn more about unconscious bias and the importance of allyship. Community outreach and partnerships will be another key focus for us, including panels focused on issues such as equity in tech (or “techquity”) and women in tech. (Fun fact: Currently, half of One Drop’s senior leadership team are women or identify as people of color.)
We also believe that each of our seven ERGs plays an integral role in our brand and who we are as an organization, so we plan to showcase our ERGs on our Careers page in the coming year.
Allie Strickler: What do you hope One Drop’s DEI program accomplishes for its employees?
Julia Dixon: In the simplest terms, we hope our DEI program provides a sense of belonging and authenticity. We want to continue to provide safe spaces for employees—where they can feel like they can bring their full selves to work—as well as maintain open, consistent communication, whether that’s with employees, fellow colleagues, or managers.
Allie Strickler: And what do you hope One Drop’s DEI program accomplishes for the members with chronic conditions that it serves, and the general healthtech space?
Julia Dixon: We’re very excited about expanding our efforts beyond diabetes management into women’s health and oncology. Benefits offerings in our employer program will be our first priority, including, for example, support for those who are looking to quit smoking, as well as resources for people who are pregnant or who may be planning on starting a family in the near future.
As for cardiovascular health, we want to educate people about not just the toll that heart disease can take on individuals and the workplace, but also how One Drop’s preventive strategies and precision health platform can help minimize that toll. We’re hoping we can host webinars, Facebook Lives, and more interactive events in the coming year to help One Drop members learn more about these different aspects of heart health, chronic conditions, and self-care.