Board Member: Karen Boykin-Towns
During her nearly 20-year career, Karen Boykin-Towns has succeeded in high-profile positions in both government and the private sector. The theme connecting all of her professional positions, from her “fresh-out-of-college” job as a legislative staffer in state government to her current position as Vice President, Public Affairs, Global Sites for Pfizer Inc, has been her ability to take on strong challenges—often in newly created leadership roles—and deliver results.
She is the first to hold her current leadership position, where she is responsible for developing and executing strategies that leverages Pfizer’s global site footprint which consists of more than 90 significant sites on all continents. Her mandate: have the public affairs colleagues at these sites work and act in concert to drive the company’s strategic business and policy goals. While she has been in this position for a short time, she is already making progress.
Before taking her current role at Pfizer, which is the world’s largest biopharmaceutical enterprise, Karen Boykin-Towns was the company’s first-ever Chief Diversity Officer. She was charged with creating a business-centered framework to focus the company’s ambitious but often disparate diversity and inclusion efforts. In this role, she developed a global strategic plan for action across Pfizer’s business, starting with a global women’s strategy that is now effective—and yielding results—worldwide. Under her leadership, Pfizer launched an initiative to counter unconscious bias in recruitment and advancement, and rallied Pfizer’s colleague resource groups to help advance the company’s business goals. During her two years as Chief Diversity Officer, Pfizer cracked, for the first time, a number of “best in class” lists measuring progress in diversity and inclusion and received a significant amount of media attention on its approach.
Prior to her becoming Chief Diversity Officer, Karen Boykin-Towns spent much of her career in successively progressive government relations roles at Pfizer. She joined the company in 1996 as a Senior Legislative Analyst and was later promoted to lead Pfizer’s robust government relations and public affairs activities in New York, New Jersey and Delaware. This region which included Pfizer’s corporate HQ, is also home to hundreds of Pfizer’s largest customers, ranging from giant government health care insurance programs to nationally known hospitals.
Before joining Pfizer, she was Deputy Director to the New York State Senate Democratic Leader, and in her first set of positions in government, she worked her way up from entry- level staffer to become Chief of Staff for then-Senator, now former Governor David A. Paterson. She earned her MBA from Baruch and her BA from The College of Mount Saint Vincent.
She is a strong believer—and “doer”—in community activism. She is a member of the NAACP National Board of Directors the nation’s oldest and largest civil rights organization and is President of the NAACP’s Brooklyn, New York Branch. She is on the Board of Directors for the Friends of Thirteen, America’s most watched public television station. She is a member of The Business Council of New York State. She was an At-Large Delegate to the 2004 Democratic National Convention and helped write the Democratic Party Platform for the 2000 National Convention. In 1999, then-Mayor Rudolph Giuliani appointed her to New York City’s Charter Revision Commission to modernize the “constitution” of America’s largest city.
Among some of her honors are the 2007 New York State “Women of Excellence” Award; the 2007 National Action Network’s “Keepers of the Dream” Award for Community Service, and the 2006 YMCA Harlem Branch “Black Achievers in Industry” Award.
She is married to Darryl C. Towns, Commissioner/CEO New York State Homes and Community Renewal. They live in Brooklyn with their two daughters, Jasmine and Trinity.