2023 December Mag
Introducing Karen Boykin-Towns, a force to be reckoned with. Her journey from Harlem to the zenith of corporate and civic leadership illustrates a life dedicated to effecting change. A trailblazer renowned for her strategic prowess, she seamlessly intertwines business acumen with fervent advocacy, spanning her 35-year career.
Introducing the remarkable Karen Boykin-Towns, President/CEO of Encore Strategies LLC, a boutique consultancy specializing in the integration of business and public affairs initiatives. Throughout her illustrious career spanning multiple sectors, Karen has consistently tackled challenges with unwavering determination. In her role as a dedicated wife and mother, she channels the same vibrant energy into her 28-year marriage to former Assemblyman Darryl C. Towns and their two daughters, both accomplished HBCU graduates and professional engineers.
Karen Boykin-Towns is an accomplished strategist, a global business luminary, and a driving force for civic betterment. Her indelible mark stretches across government, the nonprofit sector, and Pfizer, a Fortune 50 global biopharmaceutical juggernaut. Her journey to success commenced within the corporate realm, where her leadership and strategic brilliance continue to forge an enduring legacy.
Born and raised in Harlem, New York, Karen Boykin-Towns emerged from challenging times with a determination to defy expectations and champion social change. Her college years marked the beginning of her activism, a journey that would lead her to cross paths with then State Senator David A. Paterson, setting her ablaze with a profound passion for public service and advocacy.
Fueled by her fervor for policy and politics, Boykin-Towns embarked on an extraordinary career. She served as legislative director and later ascended to the role of chief of staff to New York State Senator David Paterson, who would go on to become the 55th Governor of New York State. In this pivotal role, she orchestrated the strategy and execution of legislative endeavors centered on civil and human rights, community development, and environmental concerns.
At Pfizer, Karen Boykin-Towns advanced quickly into executive management roles. Her reputation for success in state government earned her the role of senior legislative analyst, where she would go on to hold pivotal leadership positions in public affairs, government relations, communications, global policy, and human resources.
Karen’s remarkable journey spanned 22 years at Pfizer where she concluded her career as Vice President of Corporate Affairs for their $34 billion global innovative medicines business. In this capacity, she held a pivotal position as a member of the Senior Leadership Committee, comprising the top 200 leaders in the global organization.
Earlier in her tenure, Karen’s significant impact in driving organizational change led to her selection in 2008 by Pfizer’s CEO as the company’s inaugural Chief Diversity Officer. In this role, she masterfully crafted an integrated, global strategy that not only fostered internal progress but also garnered external recognition for Pfizer’s strides in diversity and inclusion, positioning it as a competitive advantage. Amidst her rise in the corporate world, her unwavering commitment to advocacy remained unshaken.
Today, with over 35 years of dedicated public service, Karen Boykin-Towns exemplifies the ability to thrive in all spheres, effortlessly bridging the gap between the public and private sectors. Her family remains her anchor, and she champions the fight for equitable resources, especially for marginalized communities.
Karen actively nurtures and champions the next generation of leaders. At this year’s NAACP National Convention, the Youth & College Division established the Brock/Boykin-Towns Leadership Award in recognition of her positive impact on young Black women. She serves as Vice Chairman for the NAACP’s National Board of Directors in addition to independent director for iFIT Health & Fitness maker of NordicTrack and member of the American Airlines Community Council. Karen is a proud member of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority Incorporated, The Links Incorporated and The National Council of Negro Women (NCNW).
DISTINGUISHED BUSINESS EXECUTIVE
As the President/CEO of Encore Strategies LLC, Karen integrates business and public affairs initiatives, showcasing her skills as a strategist, coalition builder and social change agent. Her goal is to apply and share her experience to make positive changes in business and community.
Her dedication to public service shapes policies addressing societal inequities, reflecting her unique background encompassing corporate, advocacy, and social justice. Karen Boykin-Towns sets an example for those seeking positive change, championing diversity, equity, and inclusion, and leaving an indelible impact on society. Her journey inspires us all to embrace our roles as agents of change, believing in the power of diversity on the path to success.
Boykin-Towns has been recently recognized by Ebony Magazine as one of the ‘Top 5 Black Female Activists Making History in Their Own Right’ and has been featured in Essence Magazine, Black Enterprise, Bloomberg Businessweek, CBS This Morning, Black Entertainment Television, PR Week, WWD, Crain’s, African American Career World, Network Journal and The Cut, among other publications.
Savoy Magazine named her a “Top Influential Woman in Corporate America” in 2016. In 2020, she was named “Woman of the Year” by Seeds of Fortune and named by City & State as one of New York’s Power Players in Politics and Government. In 2021 Karen was selected for Lafayette 148‘s Unordinary Women Campaign and in 2023 featured by City & State for their Above and Beyond: Women award.