August 6, 2019 CEO Champion Spotlight

Spotlight on Athena CEO Champions: David Kopp of Healthline

Interview By The Athena Alliance

David Kopp is CEO of Healthline, a company dedicated to making the world stronger and healthier by being people’s most trusted ally in their journeys to health and well-being. 70% of Healthline’s audience is women—and women make approximately 70% of healthcare decisions. As a company, Healthline is well balanced among employees from a gender perspective. The same goes for its management team. However, prior to Healthline’s recent acquisition, from early 2016 until May of 2018, its board was all male.

From a number of conversations with both board members and employees, David knew he needed to bring in a more diverse perspective to more accurately reflect Healthline’s consumer base. To achieve this, he needed to reach beyond the confines of his default networking circle. Partnering with Athena Alliance, David was able to bring a fresh perspective to his board in the form of Mari Baker, a highly accomplished technology executive. Mari not only brought a diverse gender perspective, her accomplished track-record as a CEO and media executive brought immediate value to the investor-heavy board. Athena also supported Healthline through the addition of Kira Wampler, a proven brand-builder and product expert, earlier this year.  

David’s commitment to diversity isn’t about optics; it’s about the business imperative to seek diverse perspectives to continually improve a business. Read on to learn more about David’s views on diversity and what he hopes to achieve by partnering with Athena.

Tell us about your experience with Athena Alliance. 

We had great success almost from the get-go. The Athena team brought a handful of incredibly qualified people. Coco and her team were good about understanding all the dimensions of diversity we sought for our business. Obviously, gender diversity is one important dimension. But we also needed people who really understood our media business, who could mentor me as a CEO, and who could add functional expertise to our strategic discussions. I certainly think we checked every one of those boxes.

What do you hope to gain from your partnership with Athena?

There was a near-term objective, which was to continue to add talented, diverse perspectives to our board. But there are also a couple dimensions that hit a bit closer to home. For example, I have three daughters and I look at the way the world is today, and it’s still far from a level playing field. Supporting women in their desire to ascend to the boardroom certainly helps level one element of that.

Additionally, as a global citizen, you look at diversity of all types, not just gender. Diversity is essential to our understanding of each other and the way we interact with other human beings. I think one of the things that has happened over the last 20 years or so is that, in many ways, technology has made us more isolated and more separated into our own kind of parochial groups. Technology has enabled an ability to avoid diverse perspectives, to great detriment. I think frankly, we as individuals and as a society don’t make good decisions when we don’t truly understand the perspectives of a diverse community. In many ways, I think that is the task Athena is championing.

It’s bigger than just gender diversity, and it’s bigger than just board representation. It really is about connecting us more deeply with the diversity of our world. It’s critical that this happens at the leadership level if we want it to be reflected in the decisions we make as a society.

As a leader, how do your views on diversity fold into your leadership style? 

I think one of the things that is increasingly clear to me is that what works for me doesn’t work for everybody. I’m constantly confronted with areas where I can be more cognizant of others’ perspectives, I can modify some of my own behavior, my own language, even my own decision making, to good effect.

That’s one of the things about diversity. We must be open to learning from diverse perspectives. And that learning must start with each of us and our own actions. 

Why do you trust Athena? 

We saw results in working with Athena, from the get-go. They spent the time to understand what our needs were and what we needed to be more successful and how diversity played into that. Coco and her team found the commonality between their organization’s mission and vision and our needs. It was very clear even from the first slate of folks they introduced me to that there was a relevance and efficiency to working with Athena because they spent the time to understand what we really needed.

When you think about the future for your daughters, what do you hope for them to experience?

I certainly hope for a level playing field because the world needs the best leaders for the challenges we face and will face in the coming years. I also hope that all my children understand that they have many advantages just from being born in the United States and having a lot more opportunity than if they’d been born someplace else, due to education and all sorts of other things that created plenty of opportunity for them. I hope they understand they have some unique privileges. 

When you think about your organization in five or 10 years, what do you hope to achieve?

We are a very mission-driven organization. Our mission is to be a trusted ally to consumers in their journey to health and wellbeing. Our vision is that we’re going to make the world a stronger, healthier place. And I would hope that in five years we can count millions of users who have stronger, healthier lives and rely on Healthline to make good decisions in their health journeys. Whether it is choosing to actually get their annual physical because they understand the long-term benefits, to choosing a healthier diet, to choosing to exercise regularly, to choosing the best doctor for their specific situation. And then being comfortable and confident in that choice. I would hope that we are affecting millions and millions of people.

What should other CEOs know about Athena? 

I’ve told a few other CEOs that the experience was just fantastic. It has been a great experience because the organization pays attention to the needs of companies like ours, not just their own needs. And the reach and network is substantial. And frankly the results speak for themselves. I’ve met a fabulous array of potential board members, which made it much easier to make a decision because you really felt like you had a broad group to choose from. And they were all quite impressive on one or many dimensions.