When I first started at PhRMA two and a half years ago, our organization was just starting to talk about how we could increase and activate our commitment to diversity & inclusion (D&I). As senior director of talent acquisition, some of my first tasks were to build an inhouse recruiting team and develop a D&I strategy for the organization.
I knew it would be a lot of work, but I was driven by the possibilities and opportunity to make positive changes within our organization and – on a larger scale – the biopharmaceutical industry. I was bolstered by PhRMA’s track record of supporting D&I. Over the years, the company has invested in STEM programs that serve underrepresented students, proudly supported the Equality Act and have participated in other D&I events. PhRMA has also significantly increased the number of females at the executive level in recent years. In addition to these efforts, PhRMA still needed a structured D&I framework to bring all of them together with a strategy that would address the gaps.
Fast forward two years and PhRMA began to formally lay the groundwork for a more diverse and inclusive workplace. Last year, Lori Reilly became our first-ever chief operating officer, and earlier this year, Steve Ubl, PhRMA CEO, signed the CEO Action Pledge announcing our renewed commitment to D&I. Recently, the company has established a D&I Council that includes representatives from every team at PhRMA, hosted events and activities that increased racial equity awareness and celebrated different cultures and communities. We've invested in more effective recruiting tools and partnerships to increase our diversity in hiring. And this fall, we will establish PhRMA Employee Resource Groups (ERGs), a fundamental component to bringing our D&I framework directly to PhRMA employees. The role of ERGs is to champion PhRMA’s D&I priorities through hosting events and activities, providing feedback on HR policies and key business strategies and creating a collective voice around shared issues or concerns.
One of the most impactful things we've done is to begin discussing unconscious bias and systemic racism. In July, Michelle Silverthorn, CEO of Inclusion Nation, facilitated a dynamic conversation with our staff about anti-racism and how to be an effective ally. It was a difficult, emotional and necessary conversation. While we have made significant strides in creating a more diverse and inclusive workplace, the racial and social unrest ignited by the murder of Black and Brown individuals like Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and George Floyd confirm that much more needs to be done for our Black and Brown communities.
As the late Martin Luther King Jr. said in his “I Have a Dream” speech, "We are confronted with the fierce urgency of now. In this unfolding conundrum of life and history, there is such a thing as being too late. This is no time for apathy or complacency… This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism… This is a time for vigorous and positive action."
As a result, D&I and equity are changes the entire organization is energized to advance and poised to enact. For instance, we're rebranding our D&I framework to incorporate equity, becoming Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DE&I) moving forward. We've developed DE&I guidelines that PhRMA will follow and will hold more sessions like the one with Michelle to increase understanding. We will help influence the conversation and policies around diversity in clinical trials and health disparities and increase our local engagement with Black and Brown communities.
PhRMA has always been an organization known for its advocacy prowess and depth in policy and research. Now, we've included equity as another issue we're advocating. And on behalf of the millions of Black and Brown patients who take our medicines and employees who work in our industry, we see you and we stand with you.