Unleashing the Power of a Diverse and Inclusive Workplace at Pfizer

‘We are committed to diversity and inclusion’. It’s so easy to say, and with sincerity, but unless this statement is backed up with action, it is just lip service.

One of the main reasons is that every human being on the planet is unconsciously biased, and will favour those who are ‘like’ them. Research confirms that unless we actively and consciously work to counter these biases, they will affect every action and decision we make.1

One of the key messages from United Nations-led Human Rights Day on December 10 is that we have to actively stand up and speak up for everyone around us, “regardless of race, colour, religion, sex, language, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status”. This applies to global corporations such as Pfizer, just as much as it does to governments or individuals.

Pfizer made a powerful statement when it chose ‘equity’ over ‘equality’ as one of four company values. Equity recognises that we don’t all start from the same place, and that some people will need more support than others if they are to achieve their true potential. So it is a word that demands a conscious and continuous effort to create a truly diverse and inclusive workplace.

In fact, there is nothing passive about any of Pfizer’s Values. Each one demands clear actions of everyone who works for the company:

Be inclusive: respect all people for who they are, because diversity raises us all.
Act with integrity: always do the right thing, because patients’ lives depend on us.
Reduce healthcare disparities: serve all patients, because everyone should have a chance to be healthy.

Think Big: pursue daring ideas, because breakthroughs favour the bold.
Speak up: say what’s on our mind, because candour makes us stronger.
Be decisive: make choices, because time and resources are precious.

Focus on what matters: prioritise what is important, because getting those few things right can make all the difference.
Agree who does what: We assign clear responsibilities, because effective collaboration depends on clarity.
Measure outcomes: We always use metrics, because you can’t manage what you can’t measure.

Take pride: We celebrate our impact, because our work changes patients’ lives.
Recognise one another: We honour our colleagues and their efforts, because praise sparks passion.
Have fun: We can always make room to be playful, because laughter is good medicine too.

To drive Pfizer even further towards its Purpose – delivering breakthroughs that change patients’ lives – the company has defined a series of Bold Moves, the first of which is ‘unleash the power of our people’. This is a driving force behind Pfizer’s efforts to create a diverse and inclusive workplace, as are the four Values – not just Equity. It’s also clear that it takes Courage to challenge bias at work, and Excellence to achieve meaningful change. And the reward for creating a diverse environment where everyone feels truly included? One small word sums it up: Joy!

Equity into action
Pfizer’s commitment to Equity is led from the top. CEO Albert Bourla is a passionate and vocal supporter. In June, for example, he published a note in LinkedIn that he had sent to all Pfizer colleagues.2 In it, he reaffirms the company’s commitment to a set of Opportunity Parity goals, alongside other key initiatives, all inspired by the Equity value. Albert wrote: “We are a community dedicated to patients and our Purpose, but if we are to succeed, we must be dedicated to each other as well. Every colleague must have the same opportunity to succeed, and we must better reflect the communities where we live and work.”

Albert continues his diversity and inclusion efforts outside Pfizer. He is, for example, a board member of Catalyst, a global non-profit organisation which works with leading companies and CEOs to help build workplaces that work for women, and which accelerate and advance women into leadership.3

All around the Pfizer world, colleagues have followed Albert’s lead, and are working to translate Equity into action. In Europe, Pfizer has a regional committee, comprising passionate volunteers from all geographies and business functions, known as Diversity and Inclusion Council Europe (DICE). This provides a focal point for a network of Colleague Resource Groups (CRGs), each dedicated to creating tailored, in-country D&I initiatives. The first European CRG was created in 2014, and already there are 26 across the region, with the fastest area of growth being eastern Europe.

Once a year, DICE brings all of them together for a CRG Forum (to be held virtually in 2021). This Forum is a celebration of diversity – a valuable opportunity to share ideas from Europe’s many cultures and to build international support networks. The last Forum, held in Bratislava in early 2020, also attracted many Pfizer Country Managers and Vice Presidents, demonstrating how seriously diversity and inclusion is taken within the company.

DICE also has seven Workstreams – small teams of volunteers from different business functions and markets – which operate on a pan-European basis, and with specialist areas of focus:

Pfizer Women’s Resource Group, working to achieve gender parity at all levels
Ethnicity and Culture, not just focused on race, but also on Europe’s rich tapestry of cultural diversity
disAbility, to ensure disabilities are not a barrier to achieving your potential
LGBTQ+, embracing the full rainbow of sexual preferences and gender identity, and building a network of allies across Europe
Cross Generation, to raise awareness of the value that every generation brings to the workplace
Pfizer Global Supply, catering for the unique working environment of manufacturing, packaging and supply chain colleagues
Inclusive Culture, with particular focus on creating, updating and rolling out a series of workshops across the region.

The Inclusive Culture workshops have proved to be a powerful way to encourage diverse and inclusive thinking in teams across Europe, providing participants with a heightened awareness of unconscious biases and the skills they need to overcome them. To carry this forward into the workplace, they are equipped with a ‘playbook’ containing more than 30 tools allowing them to practise and develop different forms of inclusion. By using a ‘train the trainer’ approach to build momentum, the workshops have reached more than 7,000 employees in 14 countries since the 2017.

As every business knows, the ability to measure results is key to improvement. In order to attain a sustained and meaningful transformation, Pfizer applies metrics to all its diversity and inclusion initiatives. In the case of Inclusive Culture workshops, progress is tracked using an app, where they can collect immediate feedback on how inclusive they have been in meetings and discussions.

Other DICE-led initiatives address specific areas of diversity and inclusion, such as Female Aspiring Talent in Europe (FATE), now celebrating its tenth year. It offers places to more than 30 women in Europe who are identified as ‘top talent’, and usually in the earlier or middle stages of their career. Through a powerful combination of development and mentoring, it provides them with the knowledge, skills and tools they need to progress in their career paths. FATE does so with three two-day modules, supported by one-to-one coaching.

Determined not to allow the pandemic to stand in the way, the team created a new approach for 2020. There was obviously a risk attached, since the face-to-face networking element has been among FATE’s key strengths. So they worked hard to develop a sense of community – for example, hosting discussions in a TV studio with participants shown on a video wall, giving the sense that they were in the room. Feedback has been consistently outstanding.

The Equity value underpins each of these activities, and is also evident in the way Pfizer works with external partners around the world. The Supplier Diversity Program seeks to give qualified diverse suppliers an opportunity to compete for Pfizer business wherever and whenever possible. In the US, Pfizer has provided more than $150,000 in scholarships for diverse businesses to attend leadership training and mentorship programmes. The company spends spend more than $500 million annually with over 2,500 diverse businesses, and is looking to expand this programme across the world.4

Pfizer is also working to correct an historic imbalance when it comes to clinical trials. It is known that certain demographic subgroups of patient populations can respond differently to therapies, and yet African Americans, Asian Americans and Hispanics have been significantly under-represented in clinical research. So Pfizer has launched several innovative programmes, including the creation of a real-time dashboard for recruitment tracking, new investigator training, new internal and external partnerships and the development of a collaborator network – all designed to correct the imbalance.5

As Albert Bourla said in his letter to colleagues, published on LinkedIn, a commitment to Equity will not just benefit everyone who works for Pfizer. It will ultimately benefit those who are prescribed Pfizer’s medicines: “Our Equity Value is core to who we are as a company and I am firmly committed to ensuring every colleague at Pfizer is seen, heard, and cared for, and that by reducing healthcare disparities, every patient, regardless of their race, has the same chance to live a happy, healthy, and productive life.”6

1 https://pearnkandola.com/diversity-and-inclusion-hub/bias/what-is-unconscious-bias/
2 https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/equity-action-albert-bourla
3 https://www.catalyst.org/champions/ceo-champions/
4 https://www.pfizer.com/people/workplace-diversity/supplier-diversity
5 https://www.pfizer.com/news/featured_stories/featured_stories_detail/establishing_diversity_in_clinical_trials
6 https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/equity-action-albert-bourla

About the author

Antonio Bebba

Antonio Bebba

Pfizer, Diversity & Inclusion Council Europe Member

Antonio Bebba is the Operations and Engagement lead for Pfizer’s Diversity & Inclusion Council Europe (DICE).

He joined Pfizer in 2017 as part of the Pfizer Global Supply Chain department, and has served since then, on top of his main operational role, as a D&I ambassador – initially as local D&I Lead for the European Logistic Center in Zaventem, Belgium, and later supporting the regional European Equity agenda for DICE.

Originally from Messina, Sicily, where he graduated in International Politics Relations, Antonio has held various roles across Europe, working for larger multinational companies in the industrial and pharmaceutical sector. This gave him the opportunity to grow as European citizen, with a global mindset, and definitely facilitated his role as D&I ambassador and agent of change.

He is a strong believer and promoter of inclusive environments where people can thrive, using their diversities as a strength.

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