UVA Darden School Students Learn How 3P Model Opened Doors for Women’s Reproductive Health
Saundra Pelletier — CEO of Evofem Inc. and the global health care nonprofit Woman Care Global (WCG) — may sit at the head of both sides of a unique public-private partnership with a clear mission to provide reproductive health solutions for women and girls around the world today, but her path to arrive there was not necessarily what she expected.
In fact, she told students at a Leadership Speaker Series event hosted at the University of Virginia Darden School of Business by the student-run Net Impact club, she only discovered her “authentic purpose” through a series of learning moments. First, as a child when her mother pushed her to leave tiny Caribou, Maine, to pursue bigger goals. Then 20 years ago through a life-changing moment when, during a vacation to Africa, she became “sad, angry and shocked” after seeing the desperate state of women seeking reproductive health care. Finally, after abruptly leaving a successful corporate career in the pharmaceutical industry, she realized she was not helping women the way she truly wanted.
It was time for that to change.
Her first step was accepting the role as CEO of WCG, which was fighting to meet the vast unmet demand for family planning and reproductive health solutions for women. However, the nonprofit needed something more to make the sort of difference Pelletier was determined to achieve.
Enter Evofem, a privately held biotechnology company. WCG and Evofem had the same goals, which led to a legal partnership agreement and what Pelletier described as an outside-the-box decision for her to lead both entities.
“I truly believe that public-private partnerships, like the one between Evofem and WCG, are the key to future success in the development world.”
Through a hybrid model or what Pelletier calls the “Robin Hood” approach, WCG built an infrastructure where they make modest profits in some markets and redirect those profits to developing markets where they subsidize products for women. Evofem’s focus is on the development and commercialization of innovative products in women’s healthcare in developed markets. The companies aim to launch new products developed by Evofem simultaneously in the developed and developing worlds. Pelletier feels that the two companies achieve more together than either could alone.
Through their uniquely close public-private partnership, Evofem and WCG work to address government and cultural barriers as well as complex supply chain challenges to create sustainable and affordable access to women’s reproductive products in global markets. Next up, Evofem is developing Amphora, a non-hormonal, pericoital and woman-controlled vaginal gel being investigated for contraceptive and microbicidal properties.
Despite the closeness of the partnership, Pelletier’s role leading two organizations with different models to serve their stakeholders is still no easy task. Two of her top strategies to manage the task are hiring an “extraordinary team of people” and then using “emotional intelligence” to understand and motivate that team.
Pelletier also told Darden students that overcoming the challenges of leading comes down to three key factors:
- Having a strong peer group for support
- Discovering your authentic purpose
- Using an adaptive leadership style
The University of Virginia Darden School of Business delivers the world’s best business education experience to prepare entrepreneurial, global and responsible leaders through its MBA, Ph.D., MSBA and Executive Education programs. Darden’s top-ranked faculty is renowned for teaching excellence and advances practical business knowledge through research. Darden was established in 1955 at the University of Virginia, a top public university founded by Thomas Jefferson in 1819 in Charlottesville, Virginia.
Director of Media Relations
Darden School of Business
University of Virginia