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Permobil’s Audra Watt on the importance of different perspectives

Permobil’s Audra Watt on the importance of different perspectives

LEBANON, Tenn. – One of the focuses of Permobil’s new sustainability strategy is diversity and inclusion – a topic that Audra Watt, the company’s vice president of marketing for the Americas, holds particularly close. 

Watt is one of the 40% of women who now make up Permobil’s executive leadership globally and, shortly after she joined the company in 2020, she was diagnosed with a rare disability. 

Here’s what Watt had to say about what drew her to Permobil from Medtronic, where she spent 10 years in various marketing roles, and Permobil’s goals for better mirroring its workplace to its customer base. 

HME News: What drew you to Permobil? 

Audra Watt: I wasn’t looking to make a change, but I took a call from a recruiter who mentioned the complex rehab industry and, I think like a lot of us, I could relate because my mom has a wheelchair. I didn’t know much about the industry, but I knew the difference that seating and mobility can make in someone’s life. So, the personal connection was one reason. 

HME: The second? 

Watt: In my time at Medtronic, working for the spine implant part of the business, I never saw what happened after a person recovered from the operation – the recovery and how it impacted their quality of life. Having the chance to see what happens as part of the recovery process was really interesting to me. 

HME: What does it mean to work for a company with a leadership team that’s 40% women? 

Watt: The medical device and health care industry is still very homogenous – it’s white and it’s male, especially at the high levels. What I was looking for was not just an employer that’s looking to check a box but one that embraces more diverse perspectives. I felt like Permobil understood that I was a leader that was not only a woman but also a mother and someone who has different skills and experiences, and how that can be helpful in their strategy. That was the differentiator. 

HME: Permobil’s focus goes beyond gender diversity, of course. 

Watt: Yes, there’s also diversity in races and diversity in disabilities. The population we serve has a variety of different health or mobility conditions and, as a leader in this space, we want to make sure our employee base reflects that. I self-identify as a person with disabilities now – I have the same degenerative disease as my mother. Having this experience has opened my mind about not just wheelchair accessibility but also accessibility for different disabilities. 

HME: What’s an example of something Permobil is doing to increase its diversity in this area? 

Watt: One concrete step that we’ve taken is in our recruiting efforts. We’re developing relationships with nonprofit organizations in the metropolitan areas where we have a presence. We’re cross promoting and cross posting positions with those organizations. These organizations are not only support groups but also advocacy groups for training.


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