Stacey D. Stewart is one such woman with purpose who advocates to support other women, showing that individuals can have an important social impact. As the president and CEO of March of Dimes she believes that every mom and baby, no matter their socio-economic background, deserve the best start.
Over 80 years March of Dimes has helped millions of babies to survive and thrive, and now support moms throughout their pregnancy, educate medical professionals, and pioneer research to find solutions to the biggest health threats to moms and babies.
We are honored to highlight Stacey D. Stewart this month as a woman with purpose as many around the world celebrate International Mother's Day.
March of Dimes addresses the ongoing maternal and infant health crisis in the U.S. In 2021, what targeted challenge in the fight for the health of all moms and babies is a priority for March of Dimes?
The COVID-19 pandemic has uncovered many of the systemic failures in our health care system that have persisted for generations. The U.S. remains among the most dangerous developed nations for childbirth and it’s even more dire for women and babies of color. In the U.S., two babies die every hour and two women die from pregnancy complications every day. It is a complex problem that requires a comprehensive solution.
At March of Dimes, we lead the fight for the health of all moms and babies with a goal to end preventable maternal and infant mortality. However, we cannot accomplish our end goal until we close the health equity gap hurting families of color. This is a complex problem that requires a comprehensive solution. One important way to address this issue is through new policies like the Black Maternal Health Momnibus Act to fill gaps in existing legislation. This sweeping package of bills aims to improve health outcomes for Black moms who are dying at three to four times the rate of their White counterparts.
How was March of Dimes, and especially the March for Babies, most effected by COVID-19 and how has the organization evolved in light of the pandemic?
After 50 years as the largest fundraiser for March of Dimes, as well as the nation’s oldest charitable walk, we pivoted in 2020 to virtualize the event and support moms and babies during the pandemic.
These walks are not only a critical source of fundraising—they are incredibly important to families all around the country who have been impacted by our mission. With less than a month to spare in 2020, every person in our organization came together to reimagine March for Babies, which resulted in a virtual experience that would allow families to continue to connect and join us in the fight for better health outcomes.
Building off the momentum of last year’s event, we’re again rallying maternal and infant health supporter for March for Babies: A Mother of a Movement, a virtual awareness and peer-to-peer fundraising initiative that underscores the indispensable role of mom, who is at the center of our mission since she and her baby are intertwined. I invite everyone to get involved at www.marchforbabies.org.
You have led several organizations that make a significant social impact. Which action or decision are you most proud of?
Throughout my life and career, I have always strived to find solutions and push forward policies that deal with systemic challenges.
Here at March of Dimes, my role is a bit more personal because my father was a physician—so from a very young age, I developed an understanding about the importance of health.
March of Dimes has always been committed to serving communities in an equitable way, and I am proud that addressing disparities in health care is still central to our mission. One of the reasons why I’m so honored to lead the March of Dimes is that our organization worked to better serve people of color when it was first founded in 1938—and that important work continues to this day.
What quote or life motto do you try to live by?
Find your voice, be authentic, and never stop advocating for the less fortunate.
You are a mother of two daughters yourself. Many people around the world will soon be celebrating International Mother`s Day, can you share with us what Motherhood has taught you?
Being a mother of two beautiful daughters has taught me the importance of balance. I am a veteran in business, and I have served in a variety of leadership roles advising on organizational strategy, vision and operations. I can speak to how crucially important it is for companies and organizations to ensure working environments and cultures are flexible for families.
As a working mom myself, it is important to me that I prioritize moms and families at March of Dimes, and I encourage my fellow CEOs to have the same priorities. For example, I ensured that nursing rooms were included in the office design for our new headquarters in Washington, D.C. I also led the revamping of our maternity and paternity leave policy, with an eye towards ensuring that our employees don’t feel like they have to choose between work and parenthood. At March of Dimes, I want our employees to feel empowered and know that balance is important and we’re here to support them.
What does being a Woman with Purpose mean to you?
I'd like to point to one of my favorite quotes, which is a quote by Margaret Shepard, “Sometimes your best method of transportation is a leap of faith.” This quote has guided me throughout my life, and serves as a reminder to trust myself, those around me and make the best decision I can in a given situation. As leaders, we sometimes have to make big decisions —even if all pertinent information isn’t available. This is especially true in today’s world. In times of uncertainty, one thing is certain: if you wait too long to make a decision, you may miss your opportunity to secure momentum. Being honored as a Woman with Purpose is a reminder to me that you can be purposeful in taking that leap of faith and continue to add cracks to the glass ceiling that exists for Black women.