D&I Trends to Watch for in 2020

Dec 19, 2019

By Edie Stringfellow, Director of D&I at MassBio

The data are clear: more diverse companies are at an advantage and perform better. Yet, companies that are seeking change to become more diverse and inclusive need to act disruptively and with intention to make the urgent and dramatic changes necessary to achieve real, lasting, and sustainable progress. Without a concerted effort to ensure your culture is inclusive, your organization can’t truly create, support, and benefit from a diverse team. Diversity does not automatically drive innovation – diversity in an inclusive environment with equitable opportunities will.

As we look forward to 2020, I examined some of our member company’s ED&I best practices and assessed which will become trends in the coming years. I look forward to working with all of our members in 2020 to transform our industry and ultimately benefit patients worldwide.

Increasing Cultural Competencies

Leaders will see the benefit of taking time and encouraging their teams to learn about each other’s cultures, beliefs, and experiences represented at the company. It promotes inclusivity and trust and will create a rippling effect throughout the industry. This will ultimately drive innovation and patient outcomes by incorporating different perspectives, ideas, and strategies into the decision-making process.

Formal Sponsorship Programs

Companies will make it a priority to develop intentional, comprehensive sponsorship programs that pair an executive leader and a diverse employee. While mentors are good sounding boards for short-term, tactical questions and awesome coaches to help strengthen functional skills as both parties develop their careers, sponsors are invested in the long-term career success of their mentees. They advocate and find opportunities for promotion and career development. They put their name on the line, open their network, identify opportunities, and accelerate the learning curve for team members. Mentoring will not be disregarded, but there will be more understanding that it has not helped those in underrepresented groups excel at the same rate as white males.

Linking D&I to Employee Performance Reviews and Executive Bonuses

More companies will start to buy into the mantra: “Show me how someone gets paid and I will show you how they will behave.” D&I efforts will be measured with the same scrutiny that other business objectives receive and include a mix of quantitative and qualitative measures to track progress and leadership will be rewarded, or not, based on progress. They will also be based on sustainable metrics such as inclusive behaviors – just increasing the numbers of underrepresented populations can create a mindset of quotas to fill. When you tie D&I efforts to compensation, team members and management take it more seriously.

From Unconscious Bias to Consciously Unbiased

People will better understand that everyone has biases and that accepting them and admitting them is not a sign of weakness, but strength. It takes conscious effort to be unbiased. Yet, there is growing acceptance of taking ownership of our thoughts, beliefs, and preconceptions. Until we identify our biases and analyze them, routine behaviors and reactions will not change. Unconscious bias training is extremely important but so is self-awareness. Your pre-existing beliefs, personal internal standards, and value system are just that – yours. Knowing yourself better will help you understand why you are ‘programmed’ to react a certain way towards different people and situations. Self-awareness allows us to become aware of our patterns and challenges and encourages us to actively work on them. It promotes objectivity. When you change your mindset, you will change behavior.

What Gets Measured, Gets Done

Companies and D&I leadership will launch and expand D&I data collection and analysis to measure and track successes, failures, and growth. Quantitative and qualitative data is critical to understanding organizational health and areas for improvement. Measuring D&I will elevate it to the same status as other business priorities. Metrics and findings will help establish benchmarks and track progress; identify risk areas; set targets and other program goals; assign accountability; and measure the impact of D&I initiatives. The data can engage stakeholders, strengthen leadership commitment, secure additional resources, and advocate for further change. Metrics also serve to neutralize the emotion associated with D&I. Presenting hard data fosters a more objective, rational, and productive consideration of diversity challenges and opportunities.

Collaboration. Collaboration. Collaboration.

Intra and inter-industry collaborations to improve ED&I will continue to grow and make an impact. MassBio and its members are partnering with organizations such as The Partnership, OUTBio, Latinos in Bio, MVPvets, and many more external groups with strong, underutilized networks and talent pools. To nurture the STEM pipeline, companies are supporting programs like Project Onramp and the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center Internship Challenge to create more entry points into biotech for those who don’t have direct pathways into the industry.

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