Progress and Opportunity: Unpacking MassBio’s DEI Report and Actionable Next Steps

Nov 30, 2021

By Warner Santiago, Senior Director of DEI and Workforce Development

At MassBio, we are committed to working with our members and partners to design meaningful approaches to look at diversity, equity, and inclusion through an intersectional lens. In honor of this, we were very excited to release a report on the state of diversity and the opportunities to grow inclusion and equity in the Massachusetts biopharma industry recently.

The report aggregates data taken from a survey of biopharma companies that signed MassBio’s Open Letter 2.0, The CEO Pledge for a More Equitable and Inclusive Life Sciences Industry. Of the 222 CEOs who signed the pledge, 85 companies completed the survey between October 2020 and June 2021. The 85 companies are representative of the broader Massachusetts biopharma industry in terms of the number of employees per company. 

The report found a stunning 164% increase in gender diversity on biopharma Boards compared to a similar 2017 survey while identifying positive trends in overall industry diversity. The report also shows that the workforce demographics of the biopharma industry in Massachusetts is equal to state levels for those who self-identify as White, higher representation than state levels for those who self-identify as Asian, and about half the state levels of representation for those identifying as People of Color (POC).[1]

The report also presents clear opportunities for how companies can improve their diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) initiatives, especially around employee engagement, and data collection and measurement as:

  • Only 56% of surveyed companies report having a company-wide DEI statement that publicly states an organization’s values and its commitment to creating and supporting an inclusive and equitable workplace.
  • Only 56% of surveyed companies report having completed an employee engagement survey that includes questions specifically about DEI.
  • Only 24% of surveyed companies report having established a diversity dashboard in order to establish an internal baseline for diversity to measure against over time.

With MassBio’s most recent Industry Snapshot estimating the need for 40,000 net-new jobs in the Massachusetts life sciences industry by 2024, all aspects of DEI must be a critical priority for organizations as they seek to recruit and retain the best and brightest talent from across the world. Hence, as companies think through developing or strengthening their DEI efforts, we recommend considering the following actions:  

  • Use qualitative data to understand the diversity of experiences: Regular and meaningful employee engagement can provide a complete picture of employees’ lived realities. Employee engagement surveys, town halls, safe spaces for discussion, or other feedback loops can give insights into the lived realities of employees both in and out of the workplace.
  • Integrate multiple lenses into ambitions and targets: Establishing diversity dashboards would help to set targets that look at the intersectionality of individuals, such as gender and race, disability, sexual orientation, among others.
  • Include an equity dimension: having a company-wide DEI statement provides a space for commitment to give all individuals equal opportunities based on their background and unique circumstances and challenges.
  • Foster a diverse and respectful culture: All in all, companies should look to transform the workplace culture and ensure that employees are part of and driving this change. This can happen through better communication, employee awareness-raising events, sponsorship programs, and employee resource groups.

MassBio intends to conduct similar surveys on a regular basis going forward as a means to measure change over time, identify trends, and assess opportunities. We want to thank the Open Letter 2.0 signer companies that completed this survey. Now, our entire industry has a benchmark to measure against. However, we encourage all our member companies to measure their DEI against industry benchmarks and against themselves over time.

Please feel free to reach out to our DEI team for more information on this work or to get started on transforming DEI approaches at your company.

[1] Although people that self-identify as Asian are often included within the People of Color (POC) community, for the purposes of this survey, the members of the Asian community are counted separately in certain questions. The reason for this is to accurately portray the true representation of non-Asian POC within the life sciences as Asian employees are regularly overrepresented in the life sciences industry as compared to the general population. 

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