In February 2020, Julia Paige stepped into a new role as the Global Director of Social Impact at Uber. She did not imagine then that she would be leading the company’s response to a global pandemic. But just one month later, when the news of the coronavirus outbreak broke, Paige had her hands full.
Thankfully for Paige, she thrives under challenge. Early in her career, she worked in California’s Office of the Governor as the Executive Director of First Lady Maria Shriver’s Women Conference. She also acted as a trusted advisor on communications, special projects, and legislations. For the 10 years prior to joining Uber, she worked at Google, running social impact for YouTube and overseeing the launch of the platform’s Impact Ads and donation product. She also brought powerful storytelling—which she describes as the driver of social impact—to YouTube’s non-profit initiatives. All of it was exciting uncharted territory for Paige.
“One thing I love about places like Google and Uber is that you are, as the old saying goes, building the plane as you’re taking off. I think I do well in those environments because you’re constantly meeting new problems, seeing new things, and having new challenges,” Paige noted.
But it’s not just the opportunity to push herself that drew Paige to her new role at Uber. She was also excited to have a chance to support the company’s positive impact. One of her own personal values she learned in childhood, improving the world has always been part of what Paige looked for in a job.
“I was brought up to really believe you have a responsibility to make the world a better place in whatever little way you can, so no matter what your job was, you should always bring that. I think that took me in a certain direction,” Paige explained.
When she first arrived at Uber, she was happy to learn that the company had already committed to significant social impact efforts. Unfortunately, most people didn’t realize how much Uber was doing to support the communities they served. So, when the Covid-19 pandemic began in March, Paige recognized a chance for the company to continue the good it had been doing while sharing that work with its client base.
“There was a real need for people to get places—for healthcare workers to be able to go to work safely; for seniors and other disadvantaged communities to get food; for free PPE and the like to be moved across the country and the world. So, it really is core to what we do. It was a chance for us to give back in a way that was really necessary. But that was really who we are and who I hope to help Uber continue to be. They are really a socially conscious brand, and nobody knows it. So, I want to make sure everybody realizes how much good work they really do,” Paige said.
In the eight months that she’s been at Uber, Paige has worked hard towards that goal, and it has paid off. The company fulfilled its commitment to provide 10 million free rides and food deliveries to those most in need. The initiative landed them on Newsweek’s list of 50 companies that stood out for their response to the Covid-19 pandemic. Paige credits the success of the campaign, in part, to Uber’s CEO, Dara Khosrowshahi, and how dedicated he is to social impact. She encourages other business leaders to do the same.
“I think in times like these, people care if a company has a purpose. I think people value having a CEO who has conviction and really stands by what they believe in. The best CEOs are the ones whose purpose is really core to who they are,” Paige explained.
There’s no disputing that Paige continues to blaze a trail for women in social impact. So, I asked her to share some advice for young women who are interested in building careers in this space. Here’s what she said:
The Best Way To Make a Decision Is To Ask For Help
Paige advised that mastering decision-making is about having confidence in your choices and learning when to pivot or push forward. But she also cautioned that decision-making doesn’t have to be tackled alone. She said, “I think sometimes women feel that if they have to ask for help, they have given up authority. I don’t think that way. I think my job is to get X done, and I’m going to get it done if I have to ask 10 people how to do it or if I have to do it myself.”
Recognize The Unique Value You Bring When You Show Up As Yourself
Social impact isn’t limited by diverse identities; it’s driven by it. Paige encouraged women to be true to themselves, advice that she follows herself. “I’m proudly a woman. I’m Black. I’m a mom. I’m a lot of things, and all of those things make sure that I bring a unique voice to the table. And it’s a voice I think is needed. The majority of people who vote are women. The majority of consumers are women. So, why shouldn’t we be highly represented everywhere.”
Pushback Is Inevitable. Don’t Let It Stop You
Paige’s response to resistance is based on a piece of advice she received from former boss and mentor Maria Shriver. She recalled, “One thing Maria said to me once, which I always thought was good: ‘If they don’t let you through the front door, go through the side door. If they don’t let you through the side door, go through the window. If you can’t go through the window, go through the attic. Keep trying.’ And that’s how I look at it. Someone can say no. I may come back 29 times and maybe on the 30th time, they say, ‘You know what? You might have something here.’ If it’s something I truly believe, I’ll do that.”
Don’t Shrink Away From Roles Or Opportunities That Scare You
While Paige is naturally drawn to challenge, it doesn’t mean she’s never afraid. She’s just learned to push through the fear to go after roles she was passionate about, and she says other women in the industry should do the same. “What makes you feel fulfilled? Eleanor Roosevelt said something like, ‘Do one thing everyday that scares you. So, I would say to anyone, if you’re afraid, you have to do it, because you’re supposed to. People don’t challenge themselves as much as they should,” she said.
*By Pauleanna Reid via Forbes*