Women in Leadership: Leah Burdick

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Leah Burdick

Director of Growth, PRIDE Industries

About 13% of Americans are disabled, according to the US Census Bureau, and the Department of Labor reports that only 39% of working-age adults with disabilities are employed, compared to 77% of those without disabilities. This is a huge and untapped workforce, and it is the mission of PRIDE Industries, along with Director of Growth Leah Burdick, to try to connect this community with resources and, by ultimately, jobs.

PRIDE Industries is the nation’s largest employer of people with disabilities. The 55-year-old non-profit social enterprise employment enterprise aims to connect disabled workers, veterans, survivors of trafficking and foster youth with meaningful work. Burdick has a son who is neurodivergent, and she has also worked at charitable foundations that serve foster youth, a demographic that PRIDE employs as they enter the workforce. Her current role combines her impressive marketing background with her passion for social change.

“I really believe that everyone has talent. When you can find them and encourage them, and when your expectations of them are higher, they rise to that challenge and you can see what they are capable of. We haven’t given this population of people their due,” she said. “Seeing people rise up is really, really rewarding.”

Her own rise began while doing stand-up comedy in New York, where she moved after college – she studied creative writing and Spanish. She jokes that marketing wasn’t far removed from acting, as she helped comedian friends restore their “personal brand” in the 1990s, before social media even existed.

She hustled on the mic for six years, working simultaneously in multilingual advertising with companies such as Disney and American Airlines. This led to her interest in public relations and marketing, and spent the next few years at Fortune 500 global commercial real estate firm Jones Lang Lasalle, before becoming vice president of marketing for the Americas.

In 2007, she founded her own marketing company, which fell victim to the global financial crisis, and after reluctantly saying goodbye to that dream, she spent nearly 10 years at Hudson Recruitment Process Outsourcing, becoming responsible marketing world. Hudson has locations around the world and offers remote work. In 2017, Burdick moved to Sacramento. She and her then-husband “had friends who lived in Sacramento, and we came here to visit and we just loved it,” she says.

At the end of 2019, a recruiter approached her about working with PRIDE, and the time was right. She has been named Director of Growth, which includes day-to-day oversight of the Michael Ziegler Foundation, a foundation named after the late CEO of PRIDE that covers areas not covered by corporate services, including internships, professional coaching and even assistive devices. ; Public relations and marketing, including digital marketing and recruitment; growth support; and also as executive sponsor of the customer experience initiative.

In her three years with PRIDE, she says she is most proud of having designed and launched the I-AM-ABLE Helpline as part of the customer experience initiative. Burdick presents him as the first in the country. “It serves to help people with disabilities connect with the resources they need and training to find employment,” she says. In its first year, considered a pilot, the line helped 1,000 people; the current rate puts the program on track to serve 2,500 people in year two.

Burdick’s work serves to bring together his personal passions and his 25+ years of marketing experience, all in service of normalizing inclusion. “I come from a competitive business world, so to be able to really use those skills and also create jobs for people with disabilities…it’s really been a privilege,” she says.

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