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In a time of deep unrest amid significant social and health inequity, life sciences leaders are confronting calls to address systemic racism and inequities in the biopharmaceutical industry. Without clear leadership and communication on diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I) corporate reputations, employee morale and trust in leadership are at stake.

Look Inwardly Before Acting Outwardly

In the biopharmaceutical industry, only 15% of executives and 12% of CEOs are people of color. Only 30% of executives and 16% of CEOs are women (per U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2019).

Institutional privileges, biases and preferences that favor one class of executives are reflected in outcomes. For example, the pharmaceutical industry took on cancer and touted its great breakthroughs, and yet the mortality rate for black women diagnosed with breast cancer is 42% higher than the comparable rate for white women (per Breast Cancer Prevention Partners, 2020).

Most organizations are eager to engage with and communicate on behalf of their employees and the communities they serve. Many leaders, however, are unclear on where to start and fear getting it wrong. This comes in part from the realization that the nature of leadership is intertwined with the embedded injustice itself; the homogeneity of C-suites is well-recognized.

"Institutional privileges, biases and preferences that favor one class of executives are reflected in outcomes."

Use Maturity Models to Understand DE&I Impact

How can companies evaluate where they are in their DE&I journey? There is a range of engagement levels within companies and leadership teams, fitting into four categories. By charting your own company’s current DE&I engagement—or disengagement—levels, companies can realistically gauge where they are on their journey and determine the next best steps for improving DE&I initiatives.