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Diversity, Equity, Inclusion — How is the Life Science sector doing?

Since the recent ground swell of attention around systemic racism, many companies have announced position statements around diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI). But what is next? How do we “walk the talk.”

On Dec 2, Beth Chandler, CEO & President of the YW Boston held a virtual event, The Future of DEI: How to Sustain Organizational Change. This was part of their Elevating Lives Series. If you don’t know the YW Boston, they help individuals and organizations effect change to create more inclusive environments where women, people of color, and especially women of color can succeed. Your organization can hire them directly and you can sign up for events to educate yourself. Beth was joined by Sara Prince, Partner at McKinsey & Company and Marianne Harrison, CEO of John Hancock for a “fireside” chat. Beth introduced the conversation of how to encourage accountability and sustain long term change within organizations to promote DEI. Here is the link to watch the event.

Sara presented some of her work from a report she co-authored at McKinsey in May 2020 on “Why Diversity Matters.” This report highlights the business case for diversity, provides an assessment of where certain markets (tech, healthcare, etc.) stand and how to take bold action to internalize DEI as a goal and constant practice. She discussed how diverse organizations financially outperform non-diverse organizations by 36%. Sara presented five stages to develop and sustain DEI:

Aspire > Assess > Architect > Act > Advance

Align vision Build fact base Develop plan Launch actions Scale & sustain

She said companies need to develop internal goals around “What is our aspiration for our people and culture?” then set external goals such as “How can our unique capabilities improve our community and society?” Systemic racism and sexism have been around for centuries and companies stumble with DEI when aspirations are too generic, no clear goals are set, there is no plan in place to learn or if people think one training is a “cure all.” But one of the biggest problems is if DEI is a non-funded mandate. Sara also made the point not to ask the diverse worker, who already carries a heavy burden, to fix institutional racism or discrimination and said “Do” include them in discussions and plans or you will get DEI wrong.

Marianne gave us her CEO’s view to promote DEI at John Hancock. She discussed fostering a culture of conversation around diversity to get leaders and employees talking. These dialogues are hard but necessary. People must be vulnerable, transparent, understand that not everyone has all the answers or shared experiences. People need to try, have good intentions and if you make mistakes then apologize. She believes in dedicating real organizational capacity to effect change. The DEI head at her company does not report into Human Resources but reports directly to her, the CEO and has a seat at the executive table. John Hancock also tie metrics and compensation to diverse hiring.

So how are we doing in Biotech? Biospace just released a report yesterday, 2020 US Life Science Diversity and Inclusion. The report is based on surveys they conducted in the fall. It is probably no surprise that the life science market sector really needs to significantly improve in DEI. From their survey, only 64% of people reported that their supervisor handled diversity matters appropriately. Only 17% of female respondents felt their position is compensated fairly. Clearly, we need to do a better job overall with 32% of White/Non-Hispanic workers, 33% of Asian workers and an even more striking 52% of African American/Black workers reporting knowing employees who experienced discrimination.

So where do we go from here? DEI starts with all of us. Personally, I am committed to stepping up and listening, learning, and acting. This is a movement that needs all of us, and this is a personal growth goal for me. I know I can do better and am thankful for organizations such as the YW of Boston, McKenzie and BioSpace as well as so many groups who are providing resources and tools that we can use to effect change to make our communities better and fairer for all.

Care to join me? Please contact me anytime to talk about Science Club for Girls! Another wonderful way to "lean in" and an organization so very near and dear to my heart.

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