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She Was in Your Closet. Now She’s Saving Lives 


I recently had the great honor of being an independent board director for the Susan G. Komen breast cancer organization. One of the weightiest duties I had during that time was serving on the CEO Search Committee. Finding a new CEO to successfully lead this major non-profit was mission critical. People’s lives, literally, depended on it.  

Enter Paula Schneider. A high-flying, high profile retail executive who was CEO of the largest apparel manufacturer in the United States. Mother of two girls. Lost her own mother to metastatic breast cancer. And a breast cancer survivor herself. 

One meeting with Paula and I knew we had our CEO. Her expertise. Her take no prisoners drive. Her passion for the mission. This was the required combination of attributes Komen needed at the helm.

We know from LEANING OUT research that moving to the non-profit sector is a highly desirable choice for many professional women who are seeking to apply their professional expertise in a meaningful way. Seeking to find their purpose. And they want to know how to make the transition from for profit to non-profit.

Paula’s story of how she went from ‘shipping jeans to Bloomingdale’s’ to heading the world’s leading non-profit breast cancer organization is a journey few would choose. (Did I mention resilience in that previous combination of desirable CEO attributes?) But the journey, however torturous, led her to our boardroom in Dallas. And five years later, Komen is the better for it.

Enjoy Paula’s story. It is inspiration to us all!

Trish Wheaton

P.S. October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. If you have put off getting your mammogram due to COVID, do it now! You could save a life. Your own.



Photo credit: RJ Kern

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