We’re introducing this year’s Women Who Mean Business honorees. Click here to read more profiles.
Leah Burdick, chief growth officer at Pride Industries, believes she has found her life’s work — enabling people with disabilities and other nontraditional job seekers to become an equal and accepted part of the workforce.
Based in Roseville, Pride is a national nonprofit that trains and finds jobs and internships for people with disabilities, veterans, former foster youth and trafficking survivors. Pride currently has around 5,700 employees, about 50% of whom have a disclosed disability. These workers provide facilities management, manufacturing and logistics services for companies and government agencies.
Burdick joined Pride in January 2020 with more than 20 years of marketing experience at for-profit companies. She performs numerous tasks at Pride, including marketing, public relations, running the Michael Ziegler Pride Industries Foundation, and overseeing the I Am Able Helpline, which she created and launched in 2021. The helpline provides job placement and employment support services.
As part of her job, Burdick works with employers to find hiring opportunities for people with disabilities. These workers, she explained, “are often not given a chance. When given a chance, they can show their talent.”
Burdick is a valued member of the Pride team: “Leah is a mission-driven professional who provides remarkable leadership for Pride Industries and in the community,” Jeff Dern, Pride’s CEO, said. “She has a passion for improving the lives of others and driving results. When I think of the leaders I know I can count on, Leah is at the top of the list.”
Burdick was head of global marketing for Hudson RPO, a talent solutions and employee recruitment company, working remotely in Sacramento, when she was headhunted for the job at Pride. At first, she recalled, she was hesitant to accept the position.
“But the more I learned about it, I just loved the mission. I’ve done a lot of work with foster youth. That’s a passion of mine,” Leah said. The fact that (Pride) helped foster youth was big to me. … I have a son with ADHD, which is considered a disability. So, it’s personal to me as well,” she said.
Burdick, an adoptive mom, was a blogger for The Chronicle of Social Change, a website covering news about foster care. Her blog was about innovative foster care programs. This experience led her to create FosterCoalition.com, a website providing information about resources for foster parents and children.
Burdick also was a stand-up comedian based in New York City for nine years beginning in 1994. For several years she ran the new comedians show at the Stand Up NY comedy club and toured the country with her act.
Her comedy experience, she said, not only helps her to have a sense of humor, “but if you do standup comedy at 11 o’clock at night for drunk people, doing a business presentation is nothing.”
How has Covid-19 changed how you work and lead? I’m more in tune with my team’s mental wellness. You can’t be suffering outside of work and perform at your best while at work. I now place a greater emphasis on creating a departmental culture of happiness and psychological safety combined with supportive accountability. It leads to better outcomes for the employees as well as the organization. I think people appreciate when you genuinely want them to be happy, and they have a safe space to express when they are struggling and need support. The pandemic really shined a light on the need to include this in my leadership approach, and it aligns with Pride Industries’ values of an inclusive work environment. We’re all human, and no one gets a free pass. We all struggle at some point or another, and it’s time to acknowledge that.
What’s your favorite book, movie, or album? I’ve read nearly all of Paulo Coelho’s books. Ongoing spiritual and personal development is important to me, so now I’m reading “Whispers from Eternity” by Paramahansa Yogananda. I love all types of music and have something playing all the time, which will range from Mozart to Metallica to hip-hop to Kirtan. Depends on my mood and what I’m doing.
New for 2022! Join us for the inaugural Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Forum & Awards! An opportunity to learn about DEI in the workplace and to honor those who are doing it right!
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