Beyond The Printed Page | April 16, 2018

Achieving Leadership Diversity Isn't Easy

Source: Life Science Leader
Rob Wright author page

By Rob Wright, Chief Editor, Life Science Leader
Follow Me On Twitter @RfwrightLSL

Achieving Leadership Diversity Isn’t Easy
Michael Bonney, CEO of Kaleido Biosciences

When sitting down to interview Michael Bonney, CEO of Kaleido Biosciences, for the upcoming May feature in Life Science Leader magazine, we talked about a variety of topics, including how he is striving to achieve diversity among his leadership team. While we know this to be an important topic, one of the unfortunate realities of print remains space limitations. This is why we created our exclusive Beyond The Printed Page online section of the magazine. And while this component remains free, if you want to learn some of Bonney’s other insights (i.e., how he is building a company that will endure long beyond his ability to lead it) still requires a subscription. Please consider investing in yourself by becoming a Life Science Leader subscriber today. As for now, we hope you enjoy this latest Beyond The Printed Page installment.

How Are You Incorporating Diversity Into Your Leadership Team?

Since I joined Kaleido we’ve hired a chief technology officer, a head of program and portfolio management, a president and chief operating officer, a head of technical operations, head of regulatory and quality, head of corporate communications, and a head of HR. Kaleido already consists of 85 people, and is still growing. From the get-go it was my intent to bring as much experiential diversity into the organization as possible. I’m a firm believer that organizations that bring people with different life experiences into the party, even if they have similar professional backgrounds, create a broader pool of perspectives from which to draw upon to not only realize opportunities, but to deal with problems. Among the executive leadership team at Kaleido we currently have four women, a positive outcome of a concerted effort.

What Role Does Social Media Play In Your Recruiting Efforts?

I’ll admit I’m not a big social media guy. In fact, prior to joining Kaleido Biosciences I did not have a LinkedIn account. But since we are hiring so much I wanted to have a broader ability to find people not only with the right technical backgrounds, but also with different life experiences. I wanted to be able to look for candidates who have worked at both small and large companies, as well be able to seek both gender and racial diversity. Therefore, I felt compelled to create a LinkedIn account. In building my leadership team thus far, I’ll admit to having been much more successful in the area of gender than race diversity.

Why Do You Think You’ve Been Less Successful In The Area Of Racial Diversity?

Any search Kaleido Biosciences has put out I have insisted upon racial and gender diversity being in the candidate pool. While some might believe we’ve been fortunate to have multiple races represented in the first pass of recruiting, it was actually the result of a concerted effort to make sure we had people who represented diversity in lots of different ways. Unfortunately, as we start pressing against the experience criteria it tends to get ever more difficult. For the types of leadership roles we’ve been searching for, the feedback I’ve been getting thus far is that it’s much easier to find gender diversity than racial diversity. In my role as CEO, I’ve been trying to help inform how I think the leadership team can be constructed to obtain the broadest set of perspectives through the interview process, while still making progress.

Editor’s Note

Michael Bonney is not the only CEO challenged with trying to build a gender and racially diverse leadership team. Back in February, I wrote a blog — Gender Diversity In Leadership – How Does Biopharma Compare? The article is a comparison between the 10 biggest biopharmaceutical companies and the 10 largest (U.S. based) nonbiopharmaceutical companies in the area of executive leadership gender diversity. The data provided an interesting reveal. For example, it showed that the 10 largest biopharmas lag (-1.4 percent) behind 10 of the largest (U.S. based) companies in the world when it comes to gender diversity among their respective leadership teams. That being said, the biopharmaceutical industry does seem to be improving. While racial diversity among executive leadership teams was beyond the scope of the blog, I feel confident in saying that this remains a significant opportunity for improvement. And while the challenge will certainly prove difficult, anything worth doing often is.

Here are five suggestions for building diverse and inclusive leadership teams, borrowed from a 2015 Stanford Social Innovative Review article.

  1. Customize your vision and strategy to be inclusive of diversity (e.g., race, gender, sexual orientation) at all levels of your organization.
  2. Set a baseline for where you stand in the areas of diversity at all levels of your organization, use metrics to measure impact and progress, and audit current best practices from other leading organizations.
  3. Provide training for unbiased interviewing and selection processes, and establish strategic partnerships that connect your organization with diverse talent pipelines.
  4. Employ a range of formal and informal professional development tools (i.e., coaching, education, and mentoring opportunities), and regularly evaluate internal talent to ensure diverse candidates are always in the leadership development pipeline.
  5. Regularly engage in open, honest and multidirectional dialogue at different levels toward the development of a shared understanding of what is required to achieve leadership diversity, and then make a commitment to achieving.