How to Maintain DEI Progress in Challenging Times 

May 15, 2024

By Tom Browne, MassBio Director of Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion

A screenshot of a Zoom webinar featuring the moderator Chantal Dresner in the upper left corner (blurred background), Jean Santana in the middle top row (with a larger abstract painting in the background), Satsuki Shumate in the upper right corner (with a California Life Sciences background), Tom Browne in the lower left (with a blue MassBio background), and Warner Santiago in the bottom right (with an nondescript room as the backdrop). All panelists are smiling.

As a complement to their 2024 Diversity, Equity, Inclusion & Belonging report release, aptly subtitled “Falling Out of Favor?”, I had the pleasure of participating in BioSpace’s webinar on The Future of DEIB where we explored exactly that: Is DEIB losing popularity in the Life Sciences and Corporate America more broadly? Why and how should those who do want to see success despite the current anti-DEI commentary continue from here?  

Below are four steps you can take, consolidated from the panelist’s responses. 

Revisit the business case for DEIB 

One place to start is to restate why you embarked on this journey in the first place. If diverse teams offer different perspectives and help your company uncover blind spots which lead to more innovative and marketable therapies, is that not something worth protecting? If when employees feel a sense of belonging and affinity to the company and their teams, they are most committed and productive, how important is it to continue these DEIB initiatives? Demonstrating how DEIB success supports the values, health, and performance of your company is likely to be a persuasive launching point for discussions, especially with leadership.   

Break things down into achievable actions  

Momentum is often built and maintained when observable progress can be seen. Instead of focusing on large scale sea change, first consider what can be achieved most effectively within your resources and capabilities today. Where is the low-hanging fruit? Allow yourself to remember that while you try to ensure you bring as many people along the journey as possible, not every deliverable and employee segment has to be supported straight away.  

Protect your energy  

Celebrate the small wins and be sure to share any good news stories that come from them. You’re dedicating significant time and effort to this work which deserves visibility, but most importantly this energy and altruism needs to be protected for the long run. Convenings like our DEI and Health Equity Roundtables are just one place you can find community and support to bolster you and your efforts.  

Consider the long-term view 

Macro-political climates rarely stay the same for prolonged periods of time, and some liken the current commentary regarding DEIB to the swing of a pendulum. Support comes, and support goes. However, some trends do seem to be constant, for example its projected that demographic changes will lead to 1 in 4 Americans being Latino by 2060. Instead of being seen as an unnecessary “nice to have”, investing in DEIB may once again become popular, maybe even a business imperative. Recognizing the importance of staying the course and understanding what’s coming down the road might just help you ride the current wave a little more smoothly. 

Moderated by BioSpace’s VP of Marketing, Chantal Dresner, I was joined on the panel by: 

  • Satsuki Shumate – Director, DEI & Human Resources at California Life Sciences (CLS) 
  • Jean Santana, SHRM-SCP, Sr Director of Latinx Equity, Diversity Equity & Inclusion at Eli Lilly 
  • Warner Santiago, United States Director of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion at Takeda 

To watch the full webinar recording:

Click here to register for our upcoming DEI and Health Equity Roundtable on Monday June 17.

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