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This month‘s Pharm Exec feature, ”Building Belonging,“ looks at the efforts of big pharma companies to strengthen their diversity and inclusion (D&I) efforts in the face of the health and social justice crises of the last 12 months. In the article, GSK‘s President of US Pharmaceuticals, Maya Martinez-Davis, outlines her organization’s evolving D&I commitments. Published here is the full interview with Ms. Martinez-Davis.
Pharm Exec: GSK has of course had Diversity & Inclusion (D&I) initiatives in place for many years, but can you outline how the backlash to the murder of George Floyd in the US has impacted the company’s efforts in this area in the last 12 months particularly, both in terms of how it deals with communities and its own employees?
Maya Martinez-Davis: We are committed to diversity and inclusion because we truly value creating an environment where every person can be their authentic self. We believe this is not only the right way to do business, but that it also leads to business success by unleashing the enormous potential of the different knowledge, abilities, experiences and styles of our people, and enhancing our ability to respond to the differing needs of our patients and consumers.
So, you can imagine how events of 2020 affected us. Witnessing scenes of racial injustice, including the murder of George Floyd and others, and the violence and hatred imposed on Asian-Americans made us consider how we as individuals and how collectively GSK as a company first and foremost support our employees but also it made us consider how we could make a difference.
Our employees were speaking up, wanting to be heard and to accelerate conversations on key issues that were affecting them: the pandemic, the effects of conscious and unconscious bias in society, and how they and their families and friends were affected personally and professionally.
To ensure those discussions could be had, GSK created internal opportunities for engagement through open “Listening Session” forums where employees felt safe to share, learn, reflect and come together. For those who may have not realized the impact of these external issues on their colleagues, it fostered a growing sense of awareness.
Most importantly, the discussions sparked actions and lent even more energy to our inclusion and diversity efforts and reinforced the need to implement impactful change.
Similarly, how has COVID-19 shaped GSK’s recent D&I activities?
The pandemic brought great uncertainty to so many here in the US and around the world, and at GSK we had to revaluate our working style and environment. We had many employees – in R&D and in manufacturing, for example – who continued their vital work from our facilities in order to supply medicines, vaccines and consumer healthcare products for our patients and consumers.
But as others worked from home – and our sales force transitioned to remote work – the national conversation in the US shined a light on the importance of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. So we worked to come together to support and collaborate with each other without being in the same physical space.
This was an opportunity to learn and connect in an uncertain and vulnerable time of remote working, family pressures, illness and loss. I am proud that we were able to provide employees the support they needed. We also found a silver lining amid this adversity, using this time to develop new D&I Commitments that focus on recruiting and retaining diverse talent, developing talent, setting aspirational targets to increase diversity in leadership, and ensuring that people can be their most authentic selves.
GSK announced in August last year its $10M program to advance Black people, Latinx people, and women in STEM. Can you tell us how that program is progressing and what it is achieving?
The Philadelphia STEM Equity Collectiveis working to increase access to STEM education in homes and communities, create diverse education-to-career pathways, and build work environments where Black people, Latinx people and women thrive.
Since we launched the Collective and in partnership with the Philadelphia STEM Ecosystem at the Philadelphia Education Fund, over the past 18 months we have worked with more than 150 individuals representing 100 organizations from across the education, workforce and community sectors in Philadelphia. Workgroups now meet on a monthly basis to devise strategies to achieve our desired outcomes, and to develop success measures to monitor our progress.
In addition, we are in the process of appointing community members to form a Steering Committee for the Collective, including students and caregivers. This work is being supported by skills-based GSK volunteers, who are contributing their professional skills and personal expertise to design and implement the backbone infrastructure of the Collective.
Finally, GSK has awarded more than $1 million in grant funds to local organizations to support in-school, out-of-school and career training programs targeted to girls, women and Black and Latinx Philadelphia students, and which are designed to increase interest and success in STEM subjects. We will award additional grant funds to local organizations later this year. I am incredibly proud of this initiative and look forward to seeing the impact of this.
Can you talk a bit about GSK’s gender and diversity aspirational targets to increase representation at senior levels, announced in February this year?
Our aspirational targets support our longstanding commitment to equal opportunity. In terms of gender, the work we put in over the last several years helped us to exceed our global target of 37% female representation in senior roles by 2022 — reaching 38% by the end of last year. So, we are continuing our mission of inclusion by setting a new aspirational target to increase female representation in VP-and-above-roles to at least 45% globally by 2025.
We’re also aiming to increase the ethnic diversity of our senior leaders in the US and UK. For the US, our goal is to reach at least 30% ethnically diverse leaders by the end of 2025 (we are currently at 23%). While we’re expecting to see progress across all ethnically diverse groups in leadership by 2025, we are expecting year-on-year increases in the percentage of Black and African American and Latinx senior leaders year.
Importantly, we have taken a leading position by disclosing our representation and our aspirational targets in our annual report and this ensures transparency and accountability.
GSK writes that the three pillars of its approach to inclusion and diversity are “Our People, Our Business and Our Communities.” Our People is the focus for 2021: how is that advancing so far in the way GSK recruits and develops people, fosters a more inclusive environment and promotes equal opportunity?
We want to make sure that everyone is empowered to be themselves.
To do so, we have introduced annual mandatory inclusion training, which is helping to increase awareness and understanding of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, highlighting what exclusion and bias are and how to prevent them. In addition, we’ve included a specific focus on DEI in our leadership development programs, and we’ve added new questions on creating an inclusive environment in our annual manager feedback tool to see how our leaders are doing.
We’re also focusing on programs that promote equal opportunity, such as our Accelerating Difference program, which supports development and career progression for female managers and for our ethnically diverse employees. Our Diverse Reverse Mentoring, in which I have taken part, helps senior leaders learn from junior level employees about differences, diversity and how we can support each other and take action as allies.
Across the US, each business area (i.e. US Pharma) has an Inclusion and Diversity board comprised of employees who create plans for activities and actions that help foster an inclusive culture. We also have incredible Employee Resource Groups, which have been powerful resources for employees for education, support and action.
These tools allow us to support our continued focus on creating an inclusive workplace and culture and ensure that our people feel respected and included. And it’s very clear within GSK that all employees are accountable to continue the efforts of recruiting, developing, and promoting our diverse talent.
What are planned initiatives and timelines regarding the “Our Business and Our Communities” pillars?
With respect to Our Business, we’re focusing on two areas – Suppliers and Clinical Trial Diversity.
We’re committed to encouraging diverse businesses to take part in our procurement process and giving our people options to ensure diverse companies can do business with GSK, reflecting the communities we serve.
Clinical Trial Diversity also is a key focus area, and we have a Global Demographics and Diversity team that looks at demographics of the people involved in clinical trials to ensure we are getting data from a range of populations, especially for specific conditions that affect certain people disproportionately to ensure they are properly represented in our research.
As for Our Community, we are dedicated to continuing our long history of supporting underserved and marginalized populations. GSK’s community programs make significant investments both in the UK and the US. Through the Philadelphia STEM Equity Collective, we have committed $10 million to increase the number of Black, Latinx and women Philadelphians entering STEM careers by 2030.
Our GSK Science in the SummerTM program, entering its 35th season this summer, targets student populations typically underrepresented in STEM fields through free, hands-on science education delivered in 30 communities across the US to about 28,000 students.
We’re also hoping to develop additional programs in the future. For example, colleagues in our Employee Resource Groups are working on a plan to expand school visits and STEM career presentations to more students from Philadelphia and other schools with high representations of Black and Latinx students.
We have an opportunity and obligation to do more to improve inclusion and diversity in the way we do business and in the communities where we operate. Ultimately, through these efforts, we hope to bring our company even closer to the needs of our patients, customers and each other.