Byline: Leslie Loveless

The past two years have brought much-needed attention to the social, political, and racial inequities that have plagued our country and have inspired new efforts to address them. Fortunately, our nation is now engaged in deep and substantive conversations about how to build a more equitable society and I’m happy to report that we are beginning to see signs of progress toward greater diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) in the life sciences.

It is exciting to witness our industry become more inclusive, but there is more work to be done. According to one study released this past spring, 73 percent of industry professionals believe that cultural/ethnic minorities are underrepresented within their organization. That said, in biotech employees of color currently make up 32 percent of the overall workforce, which is encouraging, yet the percentages drop as you look at the C-suite, and that is where many life sciences companies are beginning to focus their energies.

As the industry faces a severe talent crunch many of the companies that we work with are now acknowledging the need to expand their field of vision when recruiting and retaining executive talent. Tapping into historically underrepresented communities is an ideal place to start but it can’t end there. Creating a truly inclusive culture is an essential component for gaining an edge over the competition in this super-charged economic climate. As I wrote in a commentary published in the California Business Journal last year, “High-performing women and people of color may accept a position at a promising start-up or an established firm, but they won’t stay there long if they don’t feel valued, supported, and included, so companies are beginning to implement strategies to cultivate a sustainable inclusive workplace culture.”

The importance of workplace culture is reflected in a recent survey that found that seven of ten life sciences companies report including diversity and inclusion among their organization’s core values or priorities, an increase from 49 percent in 2019. Over the past year, the topic of diversity, equity, and inclusion has surfaced as a top concern for our client partners when we open discussions about a new executive search. They realize that diversifying their workforce is in the best interest of their company and are now invested in the outcome. That is a sign of real progress!

To continue making substantive strides in DEI, life sciences companies and organizations must commit to a set of measurable goals and must be held accountable to meeting them. Building an effective high-performing DEI strategy isn’t quick and easy, but it does serve as the foundation for substantive and sustained progress. Slone Partners can help your organization achieve DEI success through a full range of customized DEI consulting services – from strategic planning to training and education to Board readiness programs – all designed to provide organizations and their leadership teams with actionable roadmaps to move the needle.

As we look ahead to 2022 and beyond, I am optimistic that life sciences organizations will continue their efforts to make our industry more diverse and inclusive. Working together with our client partners, we will help build more diverse and robust leadership candidate pools as we expand our recruiting networks and sources, providing clients with more and better options for enhancing their C-suite. The result will be a life sciences workforce and leadership teams that more accurately reflect the greater complexion of our American melting pot.