In August, Pfizer became a signatory of The Hispanic Promise, a first-of-its-kind national pledge to hire, promote, retain, and empower Hispanic employees in the U.S. The pledge was launched in 2019 at the World Economic Forum in Davos as the result of a joint effort among several Hispanic organizations asking the business leaders and companies of America to create a more inclusive work environment. To date, the We Are All Human Foundation (the nonprofit organization leading The Hispanic Promise) has succeeded in signing up over 150 companies to their call to action. This includes many brands that are household names all over the world such as Pepsico, IKEA and Twitter, alongside several biopharma leaders in addition to Pfizer, including Eli Lilly, Johnson & Johnson and Bristol-Myers Squibb.
Despite making up 18 percent of the U.S. population, 12 percent of annual U.S. GDP and $1.7 trillion of annual consumer purchasing power,1 We Are All Human reveals that Hispanics are often undervalued, underrepresented and misperceived – and this profoundly affects how they feel about their place in society and in the workplace. However, U.S. Hispanics have long been one of the nation’s youngest racial or ethnic groups, with recent Pew research2 revealing a median age of 30 years old and the most common age as 11 years old. (For comparison, the median age of the non-Hispanic white population is 44 years old and the most common age skews much older at 58 years old.) It will undoubtedly be essential for companies to hire, retain, and attract talent from within the Hispanic/Latino community to create the workforce of both today and tomorrow.
Our Equity Value
At Pfizer, we clearly define our Purpose – Breakthroughs that change patients’ lives – because we understand that purpose-driven companies perform better, are more innovative, attract and retain the best people, and know how to unleash the power of those people. Our Purpose (the “why” we exist) also comes along with a clear set of expectations regarding “how” we will go about achieving it – our Values of Courage, Excellence, Equity and Joy. Each is fundamentally important in defining Pfizer’s culture but, above all, it is our Value of Equity that drives Pfizer’s commitment to The Hispanic Promise call to action.
As a senior leader championing the initiative at Pfizer, my advocacy and enthusiasm comes from two equally important places. First, it’s personal. As I was pursuing my education in both science and business in the 1980s and 90s, I rarely saw myself reflected in my textbooks, or at the front of my classrooms, or in my lab groups and lecture halls. I was met with that same reality when I entered the corporate world. To paraphrase children’s rights advocate Marian Wright Edelman, it’s hard to be what you can’t see. Indeed, representation matters.
Today, I have a deep sense of responsibility to shape the environment for future generations and to advocate for making my workplace more diverse and inclusive. I was particularly saddened to learn via the Hispanic Sentiment Study, conducted by We Are All Human in 2018, that 74 percent of U.S. Hispanics feel they cannot be themselves at work.3
The bottom line is that every company signing The Hispanic Promise must foster an inclusive environment that allows all colleagues to bring their full self to work every day. If there is one piece of advice I consistently give to people starting their career, it is this: always be you. Sometimes it can feel vulnerable, but there is no substitute for authenticity – in all aspects of life. In my current role, I lead a team of more than 1,500 colleagues based all over the world and it is my responsibility to create an environment where everyone can be themselves and feel valued, and where everyone has equal access to opportunities that will help them grow and succeed.
I’m proud that as part of Pfizer’s Opportunity Parity strategy, we have set measurable targets for achieving parity for underrepresented communities in the U.S. We have set out to increase representation from 19% to 32% at the vice president level and above by 2025. We’ve also made measurable diversity improvements this year for young people just starting out on their careers, with 67% of our summer interns coming from underrepresented populations. To support the Hispanic Promise aims around inclusive leadership and unconscious bias, we’ve developed comprehensive learning resources that are designed to support managers in having courageous conversations with their teams in an empathetic and productive way about equity, race, and bias. These are all important actions that bring to life our Equity Value.
This brings me to the second reason I’m championing The Hispanic Promise; it makes good business sense. Based on my years of experience in various roles leading teams of all sizes, including my current role as Global President of Vaccines, I truly believe that diversity of all kinds makes us stronger and leads to better outcomes. When people from different backgrounds, with different experiences and skills sets, come together, I’ve always found it extremely powerful – and it almost always leads us to find more innovative solutions to the complex issues we are asked to solve daily in our industry.
Reducing Healthcare Disparities
I would be remiss if I didn’t add that Pfizer’s commitment to Equity for the Hispanic/Latino community doesn’t just apply within the company – it is a key area of focus in how we conduct our clinical trials and deliver our medicines and vaccines to the world. For example, we have focused extensively with our COVID-19 vaccine trial on enrolling a diverse population, both in the U.S. and globally – one that reflects the diversity of the world we live in, and is inclusive of communities that have been disproportionately affected by COVID-19. Sadly, Hispanics and Latinos are among those who have seen higher rates of COVID-19, more severe COVID-19 illnesses, more hospitalizations, and increased mortality.
To help drive enrollment, we’ve partnered with trusted grassroots organizations, like Hispanic Federation and Día de la Mujer Latina, to raise awareness and understanding about the importance of clinical trial participation and develop patient-focused, Spanish-language materials – a known barrier to participation. In addition, we prioritized clinical trial sites in locations with large numbers of Hispanics and Latinos. As of this week, 28% of global participants and 13% of U.S. participants enrolled represent the Hispanic/Latino community. I have great hopes that we can take our learnings from this effort and apply them to more trials moving forward.
Seen, Heard and Cared For
Pfizer’s Equity Value says that “Every person deserves to be seen, heard and cared for” and I’m proud to be part of a collaborative effort like The Hispanic Promise to advance Hispanics and Latinos not only as colleagues, but also as patients, citizens, partners, and more. The COVID-19 pandemic has painfully exposed many of the inequities that exist in access to healthcare, and I feel the weight of responsibility where future lives depend on Pfizer’s commitment to make more diseases preventable for more people. This is what drives me as a leader and as a proud Latina on a mission to inspire young minds to consider a career in biopharma, where your ideas and your energy can help reduce disparities and build a more equitable future.
I’ll end with a quote from Claudia Romo Edelman, the founder of the We Are All Human Foundation: “The world is getting browner, more feminine and with a bigger heart. People are acting more every time, with their beliefs and hearts. Winners will be those who understand inclusion.”
Nanette Cocero is the Global President of Pfizer Vaccines, leading the development, commercialization, and delivery of innovative vaccines to drive the prevention of serious and life-threatening conditions. With over 25 years of experience, Cocero is a recognized global leader with broad business acumen coupled with an extensive clinical background and scientific expertise. She leads a $6 billion global business and manages a diverse vaccine portfolio aimed at protecting lives at all stages, from infants to older adults.
Cocero is Outgoing Chair of the International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers & Associations (IFPMA) Vaccine CEO Steering Committee, advocating for policies and practices that foster vaccine innovation while driving collaboration across the biopharmaceutical industry. In this position and her role at Pfizer, she has served as a key thought leader for the industry during the COVID-19 pandemic, accelerating the production of a potential COVID-19 vaccine and advocating for equitable access to diagnostics, therapeutics, and vaccines around the world. She also serves on the Leadership Council for the Milken Institute Center for the Future of Aging.
Cocero is a former Research Fellow for the University of Pennsylvania, Department of Pharmacology. She earned a BSc in chemistry from Cornell University, a PhD in pharmacology from the University of Pennsylvania, and an MBA from The Wharton Business School.