How This DEI Leader Advances GRAIL’s Health Equity Advocacy

Director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Rayshawnda Madison intertwines her commitment to reducing health disparities and advancing community change, inside and outside GRAIL.

Written by Brigid Hogan
Published on Jan. 25, 2024
How This DEI Leader Advances GRAIL’s Health Equity Advocacy
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For Rayshawnda Madison, GRAIL’s mission to detect early-stage cancer isn’t just cutting-edge scientific advancement; it dovetails seamlessly with her work as the healthcare company’s director of diversity, equity and inclusion — work that goes beyond the office and into her Bay Area community.

“All our DEI initiatives align closely with my personal mission to bring awareness to health equity disparities in communities,” she told Built In. “This commitment extends beyond the workplace, aligning with my role as a servant leader who actively engages in community initiatives that promote positive change.”

In supporting GRAIL’s employee resource groups and the groups’ leaders, Madison sees her work expanding the possibilities not only for cultivating an inclusive culture but also for furthering the company’s work in cancer detection.

“At GRAIL, we target efforts to enhance health equity by decreasing disparities in cancer through broad promotion and equitable access to and use of multi-cancer early detection and emerging technologies,” she said. “The GRAIL ERGs create an environment where employees are better equipped to collaborate and tackle these challenges together.”


“The GRAIL ERGs create an environment where employees are better equipped to collaborate and tackle these challenges together.” 


In order to build a positive and affirming environment for the ERGs to flourish, Madison has incorporated an unexpected element into the meetings she shares with ERG leaders.

“To ensure a holistic understanding of each team member’s wellbeing, we incorporate a ‘High, Low, Buffalo’ segment,” she said.

While many teams are familiar with sharing their wins and challenges, adding a “buffalo” — which can encompass anything else — shifts the tone of the meetings and allows for a deeper layer of personal connection, according to Madison.

“The ‘buffalo’ introduces an element of randomness, which encourages spontaneous and light-hearted conversations,” she said.

Built In sat down with Madison to learn more about how she guides GRAIL’s DEI efforts and how those initiatives support the company’s work in building health equity through early-stage cancer detection.


Read MoreAt GRAIL, AI is the Key to Early-Stage Cancer Detection | Built In 


As a DEI leader, what are your responsibilities?

Rayshawnda Madison
DE&I Director • GRAIL

I guide the comprehensive DEI strategy for the organization internally and externally, and I ensure that leaders at all levels champion DEI actively by providing them with guidance, resources and support. 

Internally, I spearhead initiatives to ensure that diversity is not just celebrated but integrated into the fabric of our organization. This involves developing and implementing policies, programs and training that enhance cultural competence, raise awareness about unconscious biases and equip employees with the tools for inclusive leadership. 

Externally, my role extends to representing the organization in DEI matters within the broader community. This includes collaborating with external partners, participating in industry forums and actively engaging in initiatives that contribute to the advancement of DEI goals on a larger scale.

Both our external and internal efforts converge on a shared commitment to DEI and health equity, creating a seamless connection between our organizational initiatives and our broader societal impact.


As vice chair of Solano County’s Commission for Women and Girls, Madison’s work to support equity extends far beyond her role at GRAIL. The commission advises the county’s Board of Supervisors regarding the social and economic conditions of girls and women across the county, with goals to “increase awareness of women’s issues, celebrate the achievements of local deserving women, champion opportunities for women and girls, and recommend legislative solutions.”

For Madison, her role on the commission and work at GRAIL align to improve health outcomes at all stages of life. “I am focused on driving awareness around birthing experiences in my local community,” she said.


How do employee resource groups support GRAIL’s commitment to DEI? 

GRAIL’s employee resource groups are foundational to our commitment to fostering a workplace that values DEI. These ERGs play a vital role in maintaining meaningful connections among our growing team. Comprising employees who share common characteristics and experiences, ERGs at GRAIL are dynamic communities that provide essential support to members through initiatives such as mentorship programs, fostering a sense of belonging within the organization. 

Open to all at GRAIL, ERGs function as inclusive communities where membership is not restricted to those who identify with a specific demographic group. Instead, allies are encouraged to join, creating a diverse and supportive network.

GRAIL’s ERGs are driven by three core purposes: community support; education, learning and awareness; and service to others. By adhering to these fundamental principles, GRAIL’s ERGs not only strengthen internal connections but also play a pivotal role in driving positive change within and beyond our organization. In 2023, we saw a remarkable increase of ERG participation among employees, up 118 percent. We grew from four ERGs to seven, demonstrating a thriving culture that embraces diversity at every level of the organization.


“In 2023, we saw a remarkable increase of ERG participation among employees, up 118 percent.”


Describe a recent DEI initiative.

The inspiration behind our recent efforts revolve around making our workplace more inclusive, promoting health equity and sparking positive changes within our organization. 

We recently hosted GRAIL’s second DEI Week, “Cultivating Culture, Advancing Health Equity and Igniting Change,” which featured 11 sessions over four days. Our goal was to provide comprehensive education on different aspects of DEI, with a greater focus on helping executive and senior leaders build skills in inclusive leadership. This included promoting awareness of unconscious biases and fostering cultural competence. 

We aspired to create a safe and open space for genuine conversations about DEI by encouraging employees at all levels to share their unique perspectives, experiences and ideas, cultivating a culture of respect, understanding and openness.



According to Madison, GRAIL’s singular commitment to fostering health equity is supported by its DEI efforts — most notably during the company’s annual DEI week. She explained, “This program — featuring diverse programming such as speakers, workshops, social gatherings and panel discussions — cultivates an internal culture rooted in innovation, awareness and positive change.”


What makes your ERGs different from other company groups?

GRAIL ERGs represent inclusive affinity groups, welcoming allies and focusing on a holistic approach to DEI. With dynamic programming ownership during key events such as our annual DEI week, our ERGs align strategically with GRAIL’s overall goals. 

The groups distinguish themselves by prioritizing education, learning and service, going beyond conventional diversity initiatives to create lasting impact and positive change within our organization and in our communities.


How do you bring DEI work into your personal life?

The committee’s work has become an integral part of my lifestyle, influencing how I lead and contribute to the broader community. I try to embody the principles of DEI as an authentic leader and servant leader. In my daily interactions, I strive to authentically model the values championed by the committee, fostering inclusive conversations and raising awareness about diversity and equity issues within my personal networks. 


Responses have been edited for length and clarity. Images provided by GRAIL.

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