Vertex on Diversity as a Powerful Catalyst for Innovation & Growth

May 15, 2018

By Reshma Kewalramani, Executive VP, Global Medicines Development and Medical Affairs, and Chief Medical Officer, Vertex

Diversity and inclusion aren’t just ideas; they are values that must be lived and practiced every day by all members of an organization. One of the reasons I joined Vertex last year was because I believe we are putting into practice, in big and small ways, the values we espouse.

At Vertex we are successful because everyone recognizes that our diversity is a powerful catalyst for innovation and growth and we invest in it – from inspiring and encouraging the future STEM professionals in the classroom to cultivating the leaders and future leaders within our company. Our core values are built on a foundation of mutual respect and understanding, recognizing that the differences among us ultimately make us stronger as we continue our fearless pursuit of excellence. 

In my experience in science and in business, many women and especially women of color go through a zig-zag path as they move through their careers. By no measure has my career followed a straight line to Chief Medical Officer (CMO) at Vertex. Mentors, coaches, and friends played an important role in my career, leading by example and supporting me through transitions and difficult decisions. Even friends I made decades ago as a young STEM student in Secondary Student Training Program (SSTP) at the University of Iowa have remained close friends and colleagues throughout my career.  As a leader today, I see the tremendous value in supporting formal and informal career development opportunities for women and students like the ones I benefitted from, and we have a number of programs at Vertex aimed at doing just that.

Vertex’s internal employee resource network, Inspiring Women in Leadership & Learning (IWILL), provides a space for women to foster connections, collaborate, and engage colleagues in personal and professional enrichment opportunities, including mentoring and career development. Last year IWILL hosted 33 events at our sites around the globe with cumulative attendance of over 1,000 people. 

But Vertexians don’t only support each other; they also take on the responsibility of mentoring young scientists as well, through our science fair mentorship program and the Vertex Fellows program. Both of these programs provide avenues for young people from all backgrounds, but particularly underrepresented minority students and young girls to get excited about and equipped for careers in science and medicine through direct interaction with and mentorship by Vertexians. Five of the seven teams who participated in science fair mentorship last year won awards and will move on to the Massachusetts State Science and Engineering Fair and in the first three years of the Vertex Fellows program, Vertex has provided hands-on experience to 20 early career scientists and physicians. These are just a few examples, but demonstrate the level to which Vertex is helping to create and shape a diverse and inclusive workforce here at our company and even beyond, into the broader innovation ecosystem.

In my new role as CMO, I am excited to lend my personal support and the support of the office of the CMO to these programs so that a new generation of STEM professionals can access the magic of science and the support of mentors, teachers, and friends to support them as they advance.

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