August 17, 2022

A Look at How Pharma Is Embracing Diversity, Equity & Inclusion

Diversity, equity and inclusion are of course a strategic imperative for pharma companies as they compete to recruit top talent post-pandemic and post-Great Resignation. As the pharma industry has been attempting to integrate DE&I to keep up with the times, these attempts are also bringing considerable rewards.

An increasing number of studies validate that more diverse and inclusive workplaces have higher levels of employee satisfaction and retention, win top talent, and improve innovation, likely resulting in higher profits.  

Pandemic and post-pandemic times have been turbulent when it comes to inequality, intolerance, and racial discrimination—both in the workplace and in society at large. The accelerated demand for vaccines and newer therapies has also highlighted the lack of diversity in clinical trials.  

When we talk about patient centricity, we cannot ignore that gender, race, sexual orientation, and socioeconomic background significantly influence clinical experience and care.

It is important that pharma drives these changes towards inclusivity not only for better patient care but for better societal outcomes overall.

And it is exciting to see that these DE&I efforts have also started yielding results, both on the people and profit front. We have started to see better diversity in trials and efforts to include more ethnic diversity in studies of new drugs and vaccines. In addition, many major pharmaceutical companies have pledged to promote diversity in hiring to increase representation at the executive and management levels.

The changes can also be seen through the new study by reputation intelligence and media monitoring specialist alva demonstrating the diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I) efforts of top pharma players.

Bayer topped the list with a score of +67, a perfect score on an index evaluating LGBTQ+ equality in the workplace, and top marks for resource groups, interactive workshops, and investment in supporting each other. In the company's Inclusion and Diversity report, Bayer set the goal of "gradually establishing gender parity" at all management levels by 2030.

Gilead and Sanofi were only a few points behind Bayer, and all the top ten pharma scored above +53. While Gilead scored highly on LGTBQ+ equality (best place to work for LGTBQ+ equality by the Human Rights Campaign Foundation), Sanofi benefited from the establishment of a DE&I board and an employee resource group framework.

Bristol-Myers Squibb and Johnson & Johnson were also in the top five supporting various diversity and inclusion initiatives. With BMS heavily focused on addressing disparities in healthcare, increasing diversity in clinical trials, and expanding supplier diversity; and J&J being featured as the Corporation of the Year by the National LGBT Chamber of Commerce and a 2021 Top 50 Best-of-the-Best Corporations for Inclusion by the National Business Inclusion Consortium.

We also saw a lot of impressive initiatives from all the top ten players across leadership. Merck's board of directors now includes just under half (46%) of women, with 23% coming from underrepresented groups. Pfizer became a member of the Paradigm for Parity coalition, aiming to achieve "full gender parity" by 2030.

Takeda and AstraZeneca were both ranked eighth. As of 2021, women held 48.1% of senior middle management positions at AstraZeneca. They also expanded their supplier diversity program in multiple countries.  

At Takeda, women currently make up more than half of its global workforce (52%) and hold 40% of management positions. Takeda also collaborates with the Women in STEM leadership pilot program, which aims to develop leadership and mentoring skills while promoting workplace diversity in 12 countries.

Overall, it seems like pharma leaders agree that creating a more robust business framework is rooted in developing better DE&I initiatives, strong leadership accountable for diversity policies, and ensuring a diversified talent pipeline.  

Ultimately, bringing diversity to the pharma industry means bringing more inclusion at every level. I am hopeful that these efforts by pharma to be more inclusive internally, bring better adoption of DE&I externally, and, most importantly, to the patients—becoming genuinely patient-centric.

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