THE GOOD NEWS ON DIVERSITY AND INCLUSION PROGRAMS is that more life sciences companies are moving away from tokenism that celebrates the meeting of minimum hiring and promotion thresholds on race, gender, and sexual orientation. We’re seeing a genuine movement with more C-suites embracing a holistic view of the modern life sciences workforce.
The biggest mistake a leader can make today is to misunderstand the importance of culture and the needs of a growing, balanced, diverse workforce. Some people call championing diversity being “woke.” I say leaders who don’t capture these synergies are asleep at the wheel. Fairness, inclusion, and accountability are the animating values of a high-functioning, 21st-century biopharma workforce. Diversity breeds innovation. Companies that hire and promote leaders who represent diverse experiences, backgrounds, perspectives, and cultures do a better job in the lab, on the balance sheet, and in real-world situations where underserved patient populations are often harder to reach.
In this age of growing scientific skepticism, DE&I is a way to wrestle with legacies of mistrust that have contributed to disparities in health outcomes based on race, gender, and socioeconomic status. Health equity must be part of the diversity conversation. As CEO of Nkarta, and as BIO chair, I’ve been pushing for initiatives to diversify clinical trial participation and integrate proportional trial enrollment into our core understanding of how we do business with CROs. Just as importantly, CEOs and hiring managers need to consider the impact of unconscious bias in hiring and promotion decisions and appreciate that cultural competency plays a big role in medication adherence, better outcomes, and revenue growth.
The most effective DE&I programs align personnel decisions with the great unmet needs that our medicines aim to address. I’m optimistic about our trajectory as an industry on these issues.
PAUL HASTINGS is president and CEO of Nkarta Therapeutics and chair of the board of directors at BIO.