2018 – The Year of D&I, Manel Free Zones and ‘Yes on 3’

Dec 20, 2018

By Edie Stringfellow, Director of D&I, MassBio

Before we get started, I have to say that I am so proud of you – and I created the video below to tell you why. This year was not easy but, we got through it, together.

In the life sciences industry, it is well-known that we have our share of D&I problems. As an #IOIGI (impatient optimistic inquisitive gregarious introvert), I believe that mostly everyone in biotech has good intentions. You will not find a better intersection for being #PATIENTDRIVEN® and passionate with purpose than those working in our industry. Collectively, we have made some strides. But as a whole, there is much room for improvement. We are not as welcoming and appreciative of the different perspectives and experiences of others as we can be. We continue to underestimate the importance of heterogeneity and how it drives innovation and contributes to scientific breakthroughs. This can’t continue. We will fail the community that we serve if we continue to fail each other. NO MORE.

When I accepted the position, I asked myself, “what can we do differently to make things better.” As a team, we decided, if we are going to be the D&I voice of biotech, we will be an unapologetic driving force for policy implementation, best practices, intentionality and accountability.

We started out 2018 with a continued focus on gender parity. Quickly, we decided to expand beyond that. Nothing will advance, and nobody wins, if we don’t bring awareness to the lack of opportunities as well as VC investment for people of color; with disabilities; with nonbinary identities; and transitioning veterans. How many discoveries have missed because of biases, stigma, ‘mini-me’ (people you are more comfortable to learn from at events; work with or investing in because they are just like you), #IGAG (I gotta a guy – not going beyond your circle to recruit); unsupportive leadership; isolating environments; etc. NO MORE.

This year, we led by walking the walk by implementing recommended actions from the Liftstream/MassBio report, coming up with policies of our own, and advocating for policies that support D&I across the state and country. This included seemingly little things like having gender balanced panels to interview candidates, to larger efforts like ensuring at least 50% of all new MassBio board members elected in 2018 were women. Perhaps the action that received the most attention and has had a rippling effect across industries is our conference diversity policy, which highlights our commitment to never host an event with an all-male panel (a manel) or participate in one. Adding to that, we also released our anti-harassment policy at events to make clear in writing to all who attend any MassBio event or any event held at MassBio that we will not tolerate any kind of harassment.

And, one of the things I’m most proud of this year is that we took a strong, public stance in support of the Yes on 3 campaign to ensure transgender rights and protections remain part of Massachusetts law.

2018 was a total whirlwind. I met with over 25 member organizations to discuss their history and plans for D&I. I wrote 28 blogs on D&I topics or to bring awareness to various diversity and inclusiveness issues. I attended over 60 events about D&I within and outside our industry. I served as a speaker or moderator at over 20 industry events. I proudly served as a Biotech Industry Representative, D&I Ambassador, connector or facilitator to other outside industries and groups. And made a real effort to diversify the biotech supplier landscape in a real way.

Silicon Valley Bank D&I Symposium 1

As we look toward 2019, a lot of what we’re doing is working. But what’s lacking is accountability, accountability, and accountability. I am following up with each biotech member organization that signed the 2017 Open Letter. I want to know what you have done since then. What are you planning to do for the next 12 to 18 months for D&I? How are you leveraging D&I with your strategic growth plans? Participation will be reported on throughout the year.

I look forward to connecting with all D&I affinity groups (for example, OUTBio, Color of Biotech, MVPvets, etc.) and Employee Resource Networks to bring their contributions to the forefront.

All the while, something is lurking under the surface without much attention: D&I Fatigue. Everyone wants to immediately reap the benefits of change but not everyone wants to actually change. It takes time, consistency and resources. Is the fatigue real – yes; are you in the position to do something about it – yes. Some feel that change isn’t coming fast enough or that we are going around in circles; others are overwhelmed by the sheer number of concerns to be addressed. It is important for organizations to ‘stay-the-course’ and continue the work they have committed to regarding culture, recruitment, retention, promotion and accountability. Accept that there will be mistakes. Yes, this is okay. We are not asking for perfection. Sometimes, ‘course correction’ is needed but it is all part of the process.

At MassBio, we take our role very seriously to represent and be the voice of the #1 life sciences cluster in the world. It is our job to bring out the fullest potential of our members. We are working tirelessly to serve as a resource, share best practices and shift the mindset from D&I being the right thing to do, to a good business decision for better patient outcomes. We lead by example, not just to other bio trade organizations but also to other industries.

Equity and inclusivity are at the core of accomplishing these goals but, we cannot do it by ourselves – we need you. I challenge myself daily; I stay on my teammates to see potential and productivity through the lens of D&I. Now, I need for you to step up. I have a personal ask – don’t leave D&I at conferences / forums / events; don’t leave it at the office; don’t put all the weight onto HR. Don’t accept laziness or inattentiveness from your leadership because if they don’t support it, neither will their direct reports.

If anyone knows me knows that I stress inclusive culture starts in the home. How do you expect the ‘needle’ to move leaps & bounds if you aren’t changing who you are in the inside? When was the last time you introduced yourself to a new neighbor? Scheduled a playdate or outing with someone who does not mirror you? I don’t care if they are from India or Indiana, it is on you to show them an example of being a good citizen. How we are in our community contributes to who we are in the workplace. Inconsiderate adults raise inconsiderate kids and the cycle continues – very little will change. We are better than that and bigger than that. Let’s make 2019 D&I in biotech count like it has never before – do you accept this mission, this challenge? Trust the formula – it works!

Let me know how you are doing and what you are doing to be the ‘change agent’. Each and everyone of us is capable. Remember, we are the history that we make. Happy New Year!

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