Women in Pharma: An inclusive approach to diversity

by Barbara Morgan


A scientist by training with a PhD in Organic Chemistry, Barbara Morgan is responsible for the CDMO business of Lubrizol Life Science Health (LLS Health). She is passionate about women in leadership and science and is the co-chair for Women in Lubrizol Leadership (WILL). In this series, Barbara discusses key themes around women in the pharma industry and offers advice for aspiring female leaders and their wider teams.

Diversity has taken its rightful place high up on the corporate agenda and many companies strive to achieve it through their recruitment drives and internal programmes. However, supporting diversity in the workplace is not just about ensuring representation. It is about valuing everyone in the business as a unique individual and giving them a voice. To reap the benefits of a diverse workforce, it is essential to have an inclusive environment, where individuals feel they can achieve their potential. There are two vital questions that leaders should consider when discussing diversity and inclusion: what is the true definition of diversity? And, what exactly does inclusion mean when it comes to diversity?

Diversity differentiates groups and people from one another; it encompasses a range of factors including race, age, gender, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, education, national origin, and disability. A good approach to diversity involves respecting and celebrating what makes people different, in order to empower them. Less visible but equally as important is the diversity of experiences and the diversity of personalities: the internal aspects that make an individual different.

A diverse workforce can only feel empowered and achieve their potential if they operate in an inclusive environment where their needs are listened to, respected, and valued. Inclusion is the glue that holds a diverse workplace together and it takes organisational effort to ensure that this culture is present. Individuals with differing backgrounds must be culturally and socially accepted by their business and they must be equally treated. Being inclusive is about allowing yourself and others to adapt along the way.

There are three main questions all employers must ask themselves when addressing inclusivity:

  • Are we listening to our employees?
  • Are we acknowledging and celebrating them?
  • Are we considering their viewpoint when we are making decisions?

If employers are listening to and cherishing their employees’ thoughts, feelings, and ideas, then they should start noticing the benefits that a diverse workforce can bring.

There are many steps that businesses can take towards being inclusive and ‘unconscious bias training’ is one of them. Unconscious bias is social stereotypes that are automatic and unintentional but can often unknowingly influence behaviour. For example, some people may display positive bias towards those who they perceive to be highly intelligent or more action-oriented, while anyone outside of those categories is viewed more critically. Unconscious bias training can expose hidden biases and help adjust automatic patterns of thinking and the subsequent actions. Being aware of your unconscious bias is one of the key things you can do.  We all have these biases – and it is important to remember that it is bias not prejudice – and by knowing yours you can minimise it.

Transparency and trust are other vital steps towards inclusivity. Being aware of your differences, strengths and weaknesses and those of your colleagues is extremely important. I strongly believe that people should always be clear about these so you and your team can build upon each other’s strengths and complement each other in areas where those strengths differ. And to build upon these strengths, it has to be about more than the individual – the focus should be on what we can achieve together building upon the capabilities of the team.

We all have our natural preferences for working with certain personalities over others, but this is where being mindful of inclusion and diversity is so vital. Oftentimes the best work can be achieved by working with those who think differently, as ideas and imagination go one step further. Of course, it can feel uncomfortable to put yourself in situations where you are speaking directly with people who have very different views. However, always remember that every individual brings a fresh perspective. Once we learn to respect our co-workers as diverse individuals and find ways to complement each other’s skills, the power of inclusion and diversity is clear.

Speaking from personal experience as a woman in the pharmaceutical industry, Lubrizol is a great example of a company that is committed to developing a diverse team and fostering an inclusive culture. By setting diversity goals, embedding diverse practices into our processes, and enabling access to mentoring and leadership programs, it is helping to ensure that people from diverse backgrounds are given the best possible chance of success. In summary, there are a handful of points that every individual needs to structure into their approach to work, in order to support diversity and inclusion in the workplace.

  • Be aware of your unconscious bias so you can minimise it.
  • Invest in training and developing your team and make it clear that you expect everyone to seek out alternative points of view.
  • Be transparent with yourself and your colleagues. Celebrate each other’s complementary strengths and build upon those.

by Barbara Morgan

14 December 2020 13:10