Impact of the “New Normal” on ED&I Strategies in BioPharma

Apr 23, 2020

By Edie Stringfellow, Director of D&I, MassBio

Organizations that have equity, diversity, and inclusion (ED&I) strategies have made the commitment to attract, retain, and develop top talent and know that it’s the secret sauce to drive innovation, business growth, and patient outcomes. Demonstration of these values are more important than ever.

However, as priorities shift in response to COVID-19 and the related impacts on work and workforce, I reached out to a few MassBio member organizations to find out if and how they were able to pivot their ED&I strategies to respond to our shared “New Normal” and keep their broader ED&I objectives on track. Here is what they had to say:

Ted Harding, Vice President of Human Resources, Jounce Therapeutics  

How has the “New Normal” impacted your ED&I strategy?

Recruiting has slowed down a little bit, but it has not been too harsh. In fact, we have a new hire that just started. She is coming in as Director of Data Management in Clinical Development. We onboarded her remotely. And, shipped her all her equipment. Our IT vendor walked her through how to set everything up. And, so far, so good.

What are you doing to keep employees balanced, engaged, and connected?

There was strong anxiety in the beginning, but people are feeling a little better now due to having a clearer direction from leadership. People are finding their footing working remotely. Leadership meets twice a week. Managers meet with their teams weekly or biweekly. Daily blog posts on what is going on inside and outside of the company have helped morale tremendously. Even if it is just one or two lines, the feedback received from employees demonstrated that constant communication is welcomed.

How are you addressing potential inequitable access to technology, hardware, etc., especially for those with DIVERSEabilities?

Some folks are still working in the lab (with precautions) and everyone else was sent home. We haven’t had to deal with direct disabilities. However, when Jounce announced that it was going to potentially be months until further notice, they encouraged those working from home to come back to the office and get whatever they need to be more comfortable with working at home. People have come back to get docking stations, chairs because their home chairs aren’t conducive for working long hours, ergonomic keyboards, etc.

Cristina Santos, Head of Inclusion & Diversity, Total Well-Being, and EEO for North America, Sanofi

How has the “New Normal” impacted your ED&I strategy?

Actually, this experience has emboldened the importance of it. This has not taken us off course from our priorities. The priorities are from the top-down. We cannot take care of patients if we are not okay.

Here are the three priorities:

  • Activate “One Sanofi”: activation across the enterprise of leadership and continue involving the importance of our employee resource groups
  • Enhance Diversity: representation focus on hiring, promotion, development, and retention
  • Amplify Inclusion: empowering and supporting our ERG groups. They are playing a critical role in nurturing their community. We have asked them to set up and wrap their arms around their groups. We wanted everyone to feel valued and supported.

What are you doing to keep employees balanced, engaged, and connected?

Recognizing and acknowledging that we are all in a different place right now, we are doubling down on internal communications and emphasizing the importance of total well-being:

  • Weekly communication from Senior Management
  • Built a one-stop-shop internal webpage for COVID-19 that provides updates on internal benefits, policies, and programs; Tips & Tricks for working remotely, total well-being, and mental health offerings.  
  • We have made available to all employees 10-minute stretch breaks and 10-minute mindfulness moment; as well as company-sponsored weekly virtual Pilates and yoga for optional participation.
  • We are advocating from the top-down for everyone to take advantage of the wellbeing and mental health resources

Eileen Martin, Global Director of Inclusion, EMD Serono

How has the “New Normal” impacted your ED&I strategy?

Keeping Diversity & Inclusion at the forefront for our colleagues at the US-based business of Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany (EMD Serono, MilliporeSigma, and EMD Performance Materials) all over the world is imperative for us during the COVID-19 pandemic. For example, our Leaders of Color (LOC) action network, led by Marie-Ange Noue and Adrienne Dawson recently held a virtual “Fireside Chat” with Dr. Kirk Taylor, Senior Vice Present, Regional Medical Affairs, North America, EMD Serono in an effort to stay connected while distancing. Although it was virtual and optional, there were 222 attendees!

What are you doing to keep employees balanced, engaged, and connected?

As an organization, we are supporting “Scraps to Masks” and holding a fabric “drive” to collect cotton material which is, in turn, is used to make medical masks for healthcare workers in the Northeast. Collaborating with Heidi Waddell of Hanson, Mass., who has forty volunteers making masks for healthcare workers to help combat COVID-19 infections, the material is then sent to the volunteers who have donated and distributed over 3,000 masks thus far.

How has the “New Normal” impacted development and inclusive culture?

Colleen Albright, Head of Diversity and Inclusion for North America, brought together our Employee Resource Group (ERG) leads to discuss how we can best support our members in these uncertain times.  Together they shared ideas such as having executive sponsors reach out to members, as well as local “check-ins” by chapter leaders.

  • For example, Rainbow Network (our LGBTQ ERG) steering committee is actively discussing how to show support for their membership, and also figuring out plans for how to best celebrate Pride month in June, given the cancelations of upcoming Pride parades. 
  • Showing their commitment to the strength of and importance of mentorship, the LOC team has sponsored MaKendra Umstead, Ph.D. as a mentee in the renowned Boston-based program, The Partnership, Inc., New England’s premier firm dedicated to enhancing the competitiveness of the region by attracting, training, retaining and convening professionals of color.


Ted Harding
Vice President of Human Resources, Jounce Therapeutics  

Ted Harding brings to Jounce almost twenty years of strategic and operational human resource experience including recruiting, compensation, acquisition and integration, organizational effectiveness, performance management, coaching, manager development, communication, new hire integration, and culture management. Mr. Harding brings with him the ability to develop and align human resources practices with business goals to add value from both a tactical and strategic perspective. Prior to joining Jounce, Mr. Harding served as president at Seed HR, and senior director at several pharmaceutical companies, including Alexion Pharmaceuticals, Enobia Pharma, TransMedics, Inc., and TransForm Pharmaceuticals, Inc. Mr. Harding also has experience in non-biotech organizations such as Boston-Power, Nortel Networks, Southern Company and Kraft Foods, making him a well-rounded, experienced human resources professional.

Cristina Santos
Head of Inclusion & Diversity, Total Well-Being and EEO, North America, Sanofi

Cristina is a seasoned professional in the pharmaceutical industry and is currently the Head of Inclusion & Diversity (I&D), Total Well-Being and EEO for North America at Sanofi.  In this role, she leads the human healthcare company’s regional efforts to maximize the strength of difference within, enabling a culture where employees are engaged, empowered and included. 

Cristina has worked in several key commercial roles in the areas of Global Oncology Commercial Excellence, U.S. Sales Leadership, Multicultural Marketing, and Training & Development.  Her passion for I&D sprung from years of devoted energy to global and local council work and leadership of several employee resource groups.  She holds a strong belief that in order to achieve significant impact, we must invite the majority to the conversation alongside those traditionally underrepresented…in essence everyone should be included!  This is a strong focus, along with efforts to enhance diversity and amplify inclusion at Sanofi.  Her mantras: “See a need, fill a need” and “be the reason for the exception” have been driving forces for many of the opportunities she’s earned personally and professionally.  In 2018 she received the Trailblazer Award from the Women of Color in Pharma and her leadership has garnered several recognitions for Sanofi’s Inclusion & Diversity efforts.    

When not at work Cristina volunteers her time on the Central NJ Board for Junior Achievement, is a member of the Hispanic Scholarship Fund NJ Advisory Council and is also an active member of Impact100 Jersey Coast, a women’s collective giving organization.  She holds a certificate in Diversity & Inclusion from Cornell University’s School of Industrial Labor Relations, where she is a member of the facilitating faculty in the Executive Education Department.  She has an undergraduate degree in International Business from Florida International University in Miami. A proud wife and mother of four children that always keep life fun and interesting; she was recognized in 2012 as a “Working Mother of the Year” in Working Mother Magazine. 

Eileen Martin
Global Director of Inclusion, EMD Serono

Eileen Martin is the global director of inclusion for Merck KGaA, Germany, reporting into the CEO’s office. She focuses on all aspects of diversity, to promote a culture where everyone feels valued. In her role, Eileen supports initiatives that promote diversity, equity, access, and inclusion. Eileen is the co-founder of Women in Leadership for the U.S. headquarters of EMD Serono, and leads a team of global executives at Merck KGaA, whose goal is to implement strategy to get more women into leadership roles in healthcare.  Before joining the human resources team at EMD Serono, Eileen served as the Regional Account Manager for New England.

Eileen’s background in business leadership spans twenty years in the pharmaceutical industry and includes roles of increasing responsibility in sales, sales management and account management within the manufacturer and insurer space.  Before joining EMD Serono, Eileen worked on the insurer side as a National Account Executive with Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts. There she was responsible for securing the retention and growth of national and international employer clients. Prior to her tenure at Blue Cross Blue Shield, Eileen served as a National Account Executive at Merck & Co. In that role, she was accountable for the profit and loss of contracts with several leading Northeast health plans. She worked as a Merck District Business Manager in the greater Boston market and was the first to pilot a position as Provider Group Manager, acting as sole liaison to large Massachusetts integrated delivery networks. That pilot evolved into a national rollout of the defined role throughout Merck US.

Eileen is a multiple time award winner in her sales and management roles. Her accolades include EMD Serono’s Elite Award, Merck US Master’s and President’s Clubs. She holds an M.B.A, in Marketing and Healthcare Management, and a B.A. in English.

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