There’s no doubt that a diverse workforce is good for business, and Sanofi, a global biopharmaceutical company, recognized this early on. In 2012, we took a hard look at the makeup of our company, specifically exploring our workforce in North America. While our various lines of business were composed of comparable numbers of women and men, we realized that the higher up in the organization you went, there was less gender balance and fewer women were present in senior roles. We asked ourselves, what’s going on? Where in the pipeline are women at Sanofi plateauing or dropping out?
Our diversity and inclusion, talent management and workforce planning functions came together to identify the root of this phenomenon. Not only were they able to identify the level at which most women stopped progressing, they also looked into what other organizations were doing to address their own gender gap in management. Using both Sanofi’s internal data and the learnings from other companies, the group designed a program, ELEVATE, to help women reach critical leadership roles. Not only was the program intended to provide leadership development and executive coaching, it was also designed to address any cultural change required to support women in leadership positions.
So how does it work? ELEVATE is offered to a select group of women leaders with the demonstrated performance and potential to assume senior leadership roles in the coming years. All Sanofi business units are represented, along with a range of sites/geographies. The program features an integrated blend of residency sessions, a multi-month action learning project supported by internal sponsor leaders, and executive coaching. It accelerates the development of senior leader mindsets and skill sets and also helps participants and their managers gain perspectives about gender dynamics. ELEVATE immerses participants in complex strategic challenges and exposes participants to senior Sanofi leaders. At its core, ELEVATE further shapes the diversity and inclusion culture at Sanofi.
So far, it’s been an incredible success. Nearly 60% of program participants have earned either promotions or new roles that expand their knowledge. The qualitative evidence is also encouraging: most employees who have gone through the program consider themselves to be better, more authentic leaders as a result.
Although this first phase of ELEVATE is focused on gender, we hope to expand this model for other demographics at the company and roll it out in other markets around the globe. We’ll set ambitious goals for progress and will benchmark our success. We know progress will not happen overnight, but we are confident diversity and inclusion has become, and will remain, a mainstay of our organization.