What Corporate Diversity Equity and Inclusion (DEI) Programs Get Most Commonly Wrong How Could They Be Improved

THE GOOD NEWS OF DIVERSITY AND INCLUSION PROGRAMS is that more and more life science companies are moving away from symbolism that celebrates meeting minimum hiring and promotion thresholds based on race, gender, and sexual orientation. We are seeing a real movement with more C-suites taking 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 and diverse workforce. Some people call standing up for diversity being “woke”. I say leaders who don’t capture these synergies are asleep at the wheel. Equity, inclusion and accountability are the driving values ​​of a successful 21st century biopharmaceutical 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 era of growing scientific skepticism, DE&I is a way to address the legacies of mistrust that have contributed to disparities in health outcomes based on race, gender, and socioeconomic status. Health equity needs to be part of the diversity conversation. As CEO of Nkarta and as President of BIO, I have pushed for initiatives to diversify clinical trial participation and embed proportional trial enrollment into our core understanding of how we do business with CROs. Equally important, CEOs and hiring managers need to consider the impact of unconscious bias in hiring and promotion decisions and understand that cultural competence plays an important role in medication adherence, better outcomes and revenue growth.

The most effective DE&I programs align staff decisions with the broad unmet needs our medicines aim to address. I am optimistic about our trajectory as an industry on these issues.

PAUL HASTING is President and CEO of Nkarta Therapeutics and Chairman of the Board of BIO.