Morphic Therapeutic: Creating a Culture of Diversity From the Start

Nov 21, 2017

By Praveen Tipirneni, President and CEO of Morphic Therapeutic

We were a month or so old as a company. And we just moved into our new facilities in the Gatehouse Bio Hub in Waltham, MA.

The first time our team was physically together (3 people); it became apparent that we had little diversity. We knew that often times the 1st 90 days of a company can permanently determine the culture for years to come. And we wanted a diverse employee base.

We immediately set out to recruit women to Morphic Therapeutic. The underlying technology is a chemistry platform and thus at the time, we were primarily looking for chemists. The problem is that in chemistry there are very few women right now.

I went and looked at our pipeline of candidates even now, and there is only 1 woman in the pile. It was a difficult search. But that’s the challenge we had in front of us.

We discussed it at the 1st Morphic Therapeutic Board meeting and the Board also felt that this was important and a priority for us as a company. It took a phenomenal amount of effort. We emphasized our aspirations for a diverse workforce heavily. And kept iterating as we understood the things that were important in recruiting.

And for the most part, it worked. We did find some exceptional women within the next few months and hired them.

Things started to get easier from there. There were not any specific policies or practices we put into place to ensure a diverse workforce going forward. But that intense focus at the beginning seeped into the culture (going back to the concept of the 1st 90 days). And just became a way of life. Because of that, it’s second nature to us and habitual. It’s a front burner issue and I’m not sure if we need to be any more specific than that going forward.   

HiPO (High Potential Employee)

Another thing that has been interesting to watch has been the evolution of our internal employee development program (dubbed HiPO). 

The early stages of the process encourage (and mildly push) employees to meet their ‘future self.’ Go out and meet peers and semi-peers a few steps ahead in your career to understand the path forward. These are typically inspiring high performance role models. 

We spent some efforts to introduce some our female employees (and men) to these role models. We’ve had many positive comments on the overall process but the women have verbalized the most impact with these meetings. This suggested to me that mentorship and role models has been one of the stumbling blocks for women to advance their careers. We’ve recognized this positive aspect of our program and thus have continued to invest in it and encourage these types of activities.

We are a small company but do recognize that this is an important issue overall. And we remain committed to doing what we can to address these issues. In particular, Recommendation #2, #16, and #32 have resonated with us and we’re committed to them.

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