Photo Courtesy of WW.
At WW, under Monika Pierce’s leadership, it’s not diversity and inclusion — it’s inclusion and diversity.
“We lead with ‘inclusion’ because ‘diversity’ is about achieving numbers, which is important but not the only measure of success,” she recently shared with Fairygodboss. “I would say that diversity without inclusion misses the mark entirely. ‘Inclusion’ is about consideration, being valued as a contributor and knowing that you have a seat at the table because you deserve it.”
Pierce knows the harms of being marginalized and made to feel you don’t belong — that you’re at the table just because you’re “different.” As a Black woman, surviving racism is something she and her ancestors have endured. It’s that knowledge and lived experience that provides power behind her impactful I&D work at WW.
And there’s nowhere better than WW she’d like to be doing this leadership. Pierce started at the company shortly after reaching her own weight loss goal, and has been catapulted through the wellness company ever since.
In a recent interview, Pierce gave us an inside look at the core of the work she’s been doing at WW — including the three major areas she’s hoping to impact with the company’s new I&D strategy. She also got personal. She shared the quality advice that has helped her in her career, the leaders that have made an impact on her and how they’ve done so, and how she got the nickname “The Fixer.”
How long have you been with your company? What about it made you first want to join?
I began working for WW shortly after reaching my weight loss goal while following the WW program and have been a member of the WW Team for over 10 years now in various roles. I had two reasons for joining. One, I wanted to stay in the “conversation” and inspired to maintain my weight loss and two, I wanted to support others in the life changing experience of meeting their own wellness goal.
Tell me about the roles that you’ve held at WW, as well as your current role as Head of Inclusion and Diversity. What about this role most excites you?
I’ve experienced WW from so many seats — Member, Coach, personal/VIP Coach, Customer Experience Manager, Implementation Manager and now as the Head of Inclusion and Diversity. It is because of the various roles — many of which I’ve held simultaneously— that I’ve had the opportunity to build amazing relationships and connections across all levels of the organization. These roles have also enabled me to establish myself as a subject matter expert and a valued source of lived experience.
Why is D&I important to WW as an organization, and to you personally?
As an organization, WW has always been focused on creating and supporting community. Within the last three years, we have become more focused and more vocal about our goal to inspire healthy habits for everyone, which is a part of our company’s Impact Manifesto. WW believes that health and wellness is a basic human right and is committed to democratizing wellness so that it is accessible to all. Our entire organization, from the top down, is extremely committed to putting in the work to make both our community and the world a more understanding, educated, and inclusive place.
As a Black woman, Inclusion and Diversity is important to me because I know how it feels to walk into a room and be the only person of color. I understand the feeling of not belonging and being told that the reason I have made it to the room is because “you’re different.” But I’m not different. I grew up with many intelligent, ambitious, talented BIPOC from various backgrounds. I am only one of millions.
It’s also important to me as a child of parents that experienced separate and UNequal schooling, colored-only laws and blatant racist encounters from birth to adulthood. While I’ve experienced prejudice, profiling and microaggressions in my life and, of course, ongoing systemic racism, nothing can compare to the reality my parents, aunts, uncles and grandparents endured. They survived — with cuts and bruises — but they survived.
Tell me a little bit about the current work or projects you’re involved in.
Three months into my new role, my main focus is developing an I+D strategy and framework. Much of my time currently is spent meeting with people internally and externally to determine where the opportunities are and who are the right partners to make sustainable and impactful changes for the long term.
My approach is to implement change in three major areas...
Culture: Continuing to evolve and strengthen an environment of inclusion and understanding.
Career: Supporting efforts to ensure representation is present across all levels of the organization and diverse employee populations are seen, heard and developed for future opportunities.
And last but definitely not least, Community: Focusing on how we show up for the world — current members and not yet members.
Within each of those pillars there are many, many initiatives and people making WW come to life.
What’s something you’re especially good at at work?
Listening. By simply listening, you learn about people’s motivations, perceived barriers and more. When you understand who a person is and what is important to them, you can better connect, then achieve buy-in and support, because you can find ways to find common ground and appeal to their sensibilities. It also allows you to understand core issues and properly solve them.
Many times we are so busy trying to get things done because it’s the right thing to do, it will improve business, will make us more efficient/effective, etc… However, the person you need to convince is concerned about the bandwidth or impact to their team. You can keep pushing the aforementioned reason, but unless you address the reason for resistance, in this case the impact to their team, it will continue to be a battle and they will never be all in.
A former colleague used to call me “The Fixer.” He said it seemed that I was always assigned projects that were gnarly and seemingly impossible to resolve. My listening helped with that.
What has enabled you to advance your career during your time at WW?
Relationships, a belief in teamwork and a strong work ethic. I’ve never been afraid to roll up my sleeves to get it done. Not for accolades but because it is the right thing to do for people and the business.
What is your favorite aspect of the culture at WW?
The ownership and pride that we all have in the product and experience we put forth. WW seeps into your being and touches you, whether you have your own wellness journey with the brand or you’ve witnessed or heard the transformation stories. Everyone within the organization recognizes the impact they have on changing the lives of our members and they handle that responsibility with great care.
What’s something you think most people (perhaps even current employees) don’t know about WW that you think they should?
The wildly talented, brilliant, fascinating employees that work at WW never fail to amaze me. Not only are they gifted in the work they do for a living, but it seems like every employee has this mind-blowing “other life” that they live. They are comedians, chefs, musicians, avid travelers, language experts, activists, authors, artists... The list goes on and on. And the experiences people have had — from those just starting their career to those well into it — there is always more than meets the eye. It makes for amazing water cooler talk and coffee runs - or Zoom happy hours nowadays!
What was the best quality of the best boss you’ve ever had?
Complete transparency and unshakable confidence. When someone is secure and confident in their skills, their experience and in who they are as an individual and a professional, they are unafraid to invest time, effort and energy into their people to help them develop and excel.
I am a straight shooter. I will tell you what I think and I appreciate those that do the same. What are your expectations, am I meeting them, what did I do right (and wrong)? Tell me. I will say transparency is not for the weak at heart — you might hear feedback you weren’t quite ready for. But when you hear it from someone who is sharing solely for your growth and improvement, not out of an insecurity, it takes the sting out of it. At least a little.
What’s the most memorable piece of career advice you’ve received?
It was more advice for life. My father used to tell me growing up: “You only truly have two things in this world, your name and your word. Protect them both.”
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