By Michael James Rocha
The San Diego Union-Tribune
WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Julie Brown has been at the forefront of changes in the human healthcare field as a leader in the pharmaceutical and biopharmaceutical industries. Now, she is changing history for women with her service as a female in the boardroom. Right now women are just 16.9% of board directors at Fortune 500 companies. Brown’s service on multiple boards is a shining example for women in leadership now and in the future.
The San Diego Union-Tribune
One quick look at Julia Brown’s bio, and you’ll see a common denominator: She loves to serve on boards.
For her, it’s all about giving back.
Brown, whose career has mostly been in pharmaceuticals and biopharmaceuticals, is chair emerita and a trustee of the UC San Diego Foundation board and is also on the boards of directors of Biodel Inc., Cleantech San Diego, the biotech industry group CONNECT, Girl Scouts San Diego and the San Diego Symphony.
She’s also chair of the Corporate Directors Forum, a San Diego-based association that aims to help corporations and their directors become stronger leaders, and next month at the University of San Diego — May 16 and 17 — the group, through its Governance Academy, is conducting a course on “The Essentials of Corporate Directorship.”
The Scripps Ranch resident — who moved to San Diego from New York 30 years ago to work for Hybritech, the region’s first biotechnology company — tells us why she loves what she does.
Q: Please describe what you do.
A: My career has largely been spent in pharmaceuticals and biopharmaceuticals, and the companies I work with now are involved in early-stage drug development. About 15 years ago, I became interested in joining corporate boards. I joined organizations focused on corporate governance, such as the National Association for Corporate Governance and Corporate Directors Forum (CDF). I joined the CDF board some time ago and am currently serving as its chair. Over the last 15 years, I have served on eight corporate boards, including six publicly traded companies. I divide my time between professional and community service activities.
Q: What is your educational background?
A: I have a bachelor’s degree from Louisiana Tech University and a master’s degree from Harvard.
Q: How did you become involved in the biotech industry?
Q: Why is this sector important to the San Diego region?
A: San Diego is one of the world’s major hubs of life science research and development. In 2014, there were almost 35,000 jobs in San Diego in the biotechnology, pharmaceutical and biomedical space. Over the last 30 years or so, San Diego has become a true technology juggernaut. When we look at the overall technology cluster, it amounts to almost 150,000 jobs. In addition to San Diego’s magnificent research enterprise, the technology cluster includes eight different industry sectors. It’s one of the most robust, most vibrant and most diverse technology clusters with enormous economic benefit to our region.
Q: Please tell us how the organization CONNECT helps support that sector.
A: CONNECT fosters innovation, entrepreneurship and the formation of new companies. Its initial focus was specifically on the formation of new companies in the life science and high technology space. Today, CONNECT works with entrepreneurs in all eight sectors of the technology cluster. CONNECT was founded in 1985 and has assisted thousands of startups since then. CONNECT has been widely recognized for its success in linking entrepreneurs to expertise and resources they need to commercialize innovative products.
Q: What is the role of Cleantech San Diego in fostering sustainable energy and business practices?
A: Cleantech San Diego is an industry association that was established a few years ago to accelerate cleantech innovation and foster adoption of more sustainable business practices to benefit both the economy and the environment. Development of a robust cluster of companies involved in clean energy, energy efficiency, clean transportation and other cleantech innovations was seen as an important economic opportunity, an opportunity for creating many good jobs, and for diversifying San Diego’s technology cluster. We believe that energy is undergoing major transformation and want San Diego to be a leader.
Q: Please tell us about your work as a UCSD Foundation trustee.
A: I’ve been deeply involved at UC San Diego for almost 25 years as a volunteer, donor and advocate. I became a trustee of the UC San Diego Foundation in 2001 and have served four terms, including two years as board chair. For the sixth consecutive year, UC San Diego has been ranked No. 1 among universities for its contribution to public good. I especially love this ranking because of its criteria. It’s based on the amount and quality of research, contribution to upward social mobility and commitment to service. Those criteria are precisely why I love the university so much. I do my best to support it in every way I can.
Q: Please tell us about your involvement in Girl Scouts and the San Diego Symphony.
A: Girl Scouts San Diego serves almost 30,000 girls in our area. I’m on the board. I love it because it develops self-confidence, leadership skills and strong values in girls. It prepares them to be future leaders. I love music, musical theater and dance. I’ve been on the board of the San Diego Symphony Orchestra for about 10 years and am incredibly proud of its progress during that time. It’s recognized as a Tier 1 orchestra: one of the best in the U.S. It recently did an international tour to Carnegie Hall in New York and to several cities in China.
Q: What is the Governance Academy?
A: The Governance Academy, hosted by Corporate Directors Forum, is a comprehensive two-day director training course designed to expand boardroom skills and confidence. It is a review of the essentials of good corporate governance. Governance Academy is intended for aspiring and new directors or veteran directors who would simply like to review the basics. It is also beneficial for people who work with corporate boards. Corporate governance is an incredibly dynamic field and increasingly complex endeavor with ever-expanding responsibilities. I am leading this training, along with Michael J. Berthelot, CEO of Mission Manager Inc. and director, Fresh Del Monte Produce Co. and Mtelligence Inc.
Q: What do you see as the common theme among these professional organizations?
A: Each of these organizations is dedicated to fostering growth of San Diego’s economy, its technology cluster and to creating good jobs for upward social mobility. Corporate Directors Forum promotes high standards in corporate governance. What made the United States an economic superpower was our ability to innovate and to commercialize important, innovative new technologies. That’s what it’s about.