Diversity as a Key Success to Biopharma

“We all should know that diversity makes a rich tapestry, and we must understand that all the threads of the tapestry are equal in value no matter what their color.” – Maya Angelou

Today, we live in a composite, interconnected world, a modern society, wherein diversity is shaped and determined by digitalization and globalization. With my two decades of experience working with varied industry leaders, cross borders, building culture and handling workplace dynamics, I strongly believe diversity is an asset and is the key to Success.

Diversity can revolutionize the constantly evolving Bio-Pharma industry which focuses purely on helping a heterogenous population across globe.
Diversity and inclusion create a positive working environment, but building a diverse workforce is the smart business thing to do. We are in an industry which thrives on R&D and innovation, so if we need to innovate, we need to collaborate. By engaging a diverse workforce, we gain Cultural Intelligence leading to a closer integration of operations globally, attracting a broad spectrum of consumers and would out-perform our peers.

To win the marketplace, we must win the workplace. Diversity and Inclusion initiatives aims to promote an inclusive and high-performing organization culture. People are our competitive edge; formalizing Employee Resource Groups foster a sense of belonging within the organization and support to serve their communities around the world. Talking about communities, it is important for organizations to step up, voice out and advocate for diversity and tolerance in public platforms too. Partnering with organizations like GLAAD (Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation) who had been at the forefront of cultural change, accelerating acceptance for the LGBTQ community makes the D&I more authentic beyond a routine.

Diversity and Inclusion is not a onetime event, it is an ongoing transformation which can be achieved by Empathetic Leadership, where the people feel belonged, authentic, empowered and essential. Empathy leads to generosity, equality, curiosity towards other’s ideas transforming into more collaboration and ideation. In this gig economy with millennial workforce it is imperative for organizations to have an empathetic culture as lack of human touch can result in higher attrition and lower productivity. It’s time to think beyond benefits! “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”

Implementing diversity initiatives in a thoughtful and deliberate way is critical to attain successful business outcomes. There is no such thing as right and wrong, the question is, are the actions appropriate and inclusive. Below are some of the best practices or guide to improve diversity.

  1. Re-assess the term “culture-fit” as the flip side of it may be “to exclude”. It is important for organization to identify a ‘culture contributor’ for the missing piece in the existing culture rather than ending up building a homogenous workforce in the name of culture fit.
  2. Building a multi-generational workforce fosters thought diversity which results in the right mix of experience and expertise. Cognitive diversity -diversity by values, philosophies, approaches is an important component to nurture diversity across the organization.
  3. Redesigning an Inclusive workspace to ensure the values of inclusion is embedded into everything – Gender neutral restrooms, flexible furniture solutions for differently abled, creating an open plan office space for more collaboration, setting up ‘mom-baby’ rooms for new mothers, to suggest a few.
  4. Diversity is positivity in disguise, it is important for the organization to motivate employees with focused one-on-ones, share experiences to alleviate any fear or resistance that may arise when their beliefs are challenged.
  5. Instead of rolling out traditional trainings on Diversity & Inclusion, organizations can identify ‘Change Cohorts’, who can be equipped with new ‘desired behavior’ and can act as champions of change with in their teams. This, when put into action with a larger population would become viral creating an infectious positive change.
  6. Encouraging employee referrals with an appropriate selection process helps building a quick and diverse pipeline of resources. Modernizing a targeted employee referral program empowers employees and helps build diversity with better representation from communities at large.
  7. Embrace inclusion and celebrate events for underrepresented minorities by encouraging all employees to learn about other ethnicity through food, traditions and music. Bringing in diverse speakers and engaging into creative fun activity would make the effort exiting and enlightening.

    There is no “one size fits all” approach while operationalizing Diversity and Inclusion in an organization. It requires the commitment and collaboration from a new bee to a veteran, from a beginner to a pro. It is not just about how the company operates, but it is about how people accommodate, adapt, habituate as it requires a real behavioral change.

    Diversity and inclusion are the catalyst for best in class business, an elixir for developing energetic, engaged, and happy teams. Diversity has become an essential component in the biopharma value chain, in clinical trials, in patient interactions, gaining desired partnerships, and in stakeholder engagement. During the course of action, one must also keep in mind the consistency between the brand image and the organization culture. It is important to communicate and represent the same message both within and outside the organization.

    In the words of Stephen Covey “Strength lies in differences and not in similarities”. If ever there was a zeitgeist moment for Diversity & Inclusion to become the forefront in pharma industry, then this is the right time. Having a truly inclusive workplace is an ambitious target which requires continuous efforts; yet by achieving it, an organization will be positioning itself with one of the biggest competitive advantages.

About the author

Ritu Shrivastav

Ritu Shrivastav

Gilead Sciences, Senior Director HR

A Results-oriented, strategic & innovative Global Human Resources leader who drives business through collaborative leadership to shape high-performing organizations, aligns HR initiatives to strategic business outcomes. Apart from being a trusted advisor and dynamic business partner, Ritu also wears the hat of being an ambassador of Inclusion. At Gilead she leads a multi-national HR team with strong focus on business results by a keen vision of aligning  talent and integrated thought leadership skills. She does this with compassion and strongly believes that diversity drives inclusion and equity – this mantra continues to inspire passion for her craft and work for Ritu and for tall around her.