How companies can encourage more diversity and inclusion in pharma

September is Global Diversity and Inclusion month – David Peacock, managing director of MSD in the UK shares with us his insights on why diversity and inclusion is so important and why it is critical to the future success of the life sciences sector.

Taking diversity and inclusion seriously, supported by robust policies and accountability for implementation, creates success for everyone, fostering happy, healthy and invested employees, new ways of thinking and opportunities for growth, learning and collaboration.

As an industry committed to improving and saving lives around the world, it’s important we believe that diversity and inclusion are central to what we do and are critical to us as individuals, and as a business, if we are to reflect the needs of the customers, health care providers and patients we serve.

Indeed, our success is built upon our people who come from a range of different backgrounds. Celebrating Global Diversity and Inclusion Month in September should not just be an event we mark for one month of the year – it should be a continuation of a legacy embedded within every company’s culture, where we encourage all our employees to bring their true self to work every day.

But fostering an inclusive environment takes effort from everyone in an organisation. Embracing different perspectives and valuing the contributions all employees make not only permits inclusivity to happen, it also drives our ability to be an innovative company. It is vital that every employee has the confidence to have a voice and feel included and share their ideas that, ultimately, might lead to the next breakthrough or solution.

I have seen the incredible power that comes when you bring a diverse team together. We also know the challenges that come when we don’t feel included as part of a team or witness inequality.

“We need to encourage all our employees to bring their true self to work every day”

This year has been extraordinary in many ways, not just as a result of the pandemic but also the tragic events which have happened around the world, including the civil unrest we have witnessed following the death of George Floyd in Minnesota. As the leader of an American company based in the UK, it is important that we acknowledge this and share what this means for our company.

I was incredibly proud of our company’s leader, CEO Ken Frazier, when he spoke so eloquently about racial and societal inequality and encouraged businesses to help bridge the gap as a result of what happened to George Floyd. We stand with Ken in encouraging everyone to be more inclusive in our daily lives as we believe that together we have the power to create a more equal world. His thoughts and opinions on the importance of diversity and inclusion form a core part of who we are as a company and are echoed throughout our organisation in all corners of the globe.

Ken and his colleagues on our global board lead by example. Making diversity a priority rather than an option has driven the inclusive culture we have at MSD today and our continued work ensures it stays alive so our employees can continue to thrive.

Diversity and inclusion remains a significant challenge in the life sciences sector. Yet it is incumbent on all of us to change if our industry is to truly represent the global communities and patients we invent for and to ensure our industry can reach its full potential.

It must be made a priority in every organisation with a clear diversity and inclusion strategy in place to enable this to happen. Leaders must embrace it and champion it by leading through example.

To attract employees with diverse backgrounds, companies need to demonstrate their purpose – at MSD, for example, we talk about how we make a difference both from a patient perspective and in the wider world through the projects and initiatives we run globally to improve and save lives.

For diversity and inclusion to thrive, there must also be a culture in place to allow it to do so. This is not something that can happen overnight – it can only be the result of all of us making a conscientious change to be more inclusive and champion everyone in our organisation so they can be heard and supported, and continuing those efforts on a daily basis to ensure this continues to live.

For example, at MSD we have introduced several networks into the organisation including the MSD UK Rainbow Alliance, LEAD (League of Employees of Africa Descent), MSD Women’s Network, the Next Generation Network (NGN), which encourages our multi-generational employee base to get involved in all that we do, and enABLE, which supports employees who have a disability.

To instil a diverse and inclusive culture in any workplace, companies need to do the following:

  • Acknowledge historical inequalities across our society
  • Call out inappropriate behaviours
  • Ensure everyone has a voice and is listened to
  • Set diversity goals that are meaningful
  • Instil diversity into all your actions, including what you click/like on social media.

As an organisation we have made excellent progress, but I know we have more to do, not only as a business but as an industry too.

About the interviewee

David PeacockDavid Peacock is currently serving as the managing director for MSD in the UK and Ireland, having taken up his position in 2019. Prior to this, David served as the chief of staff for the office of the chairman, president and CEO of Merck & Co. Over the course of his career with MSD David has gained a broad set of leadership experiences including serving as the CFO for MSK K.K. in Japan, leading the company’s business in Hong Kong & Macau, and successfully delivering in a variety of other commercial roles based in Japan, Vietnam, Singapore, and the United States.