MM&M asked the pharma marketing community at large, via social media and other efforts, to provide its POV on equality, diversity, and inclusion by asking respondents to fill in the blank in the following sentence: “The missing element on equality, diversity, and inclusion is…” Below is a sampling of responses. For more coverage, read Tackling diversity and inclusion head-on.


Diana Tran, creative director, Cambridge BioMarketing
It seems everyone wants to talk about these hot button-topics, but the missing element is why they matter. As pharma marketers, they matter because we are in the business of helping people. Sure, research and data can give us some insight, but to be a successful marketer, you have to truly understand the human experience.

To do that well, look at your own experiences. In fact, look at your teams’ experiences. Having a diverse group on your side invites debate, authentic perspectives, and better results. We all share common challenges, but it’s our differences that make our POV unique — whether that be race, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, education, etc. By demanding diversity, equality, and inclusion into our world, we can better connect with audiences across HCP and patient in richer and more meaningful ways.

Laurie Cooke, president/CEO, Healthcare Businesswomen’s Association (HBA)
The missing element on equality, diversity, and inclusion is a workplace environment that is structured in a way that supports and fosters the unique differences — and benefits — that a diverse workforce brings to the table.

Historically, businesses were built to support a very homogenous workforce of men. Analogous is our national infrastructure originally built for cars that does not offer a seamless integration for alternatives like bicycles. Thus, there are fewer bicycles on U.S. roadways than in Holland where cars and bikes successfully coexist. Both are valuable methods of transportation but systematic adjustments are necessary to create an effective environment for both options to flourish.

Similarly, by transforming the work infrastructure to one that fosters systematic shifts in existing bias and hiring and promotion practices — we can create highly effective and highly competitive organizations that optimize the full spectrum of available talent.

Jeff Ross, president, life sciences, Wunderman Health

Creating an agency culture that embraces equality, diversity and inclusion is about making it an organizational priority and creating a culture where our people feel comfortable openly discussing issues that can be uncomfortable.  As part of our process, we’ve held a series of employee meetings over the past year and recently conducted a diversity and inclusion survey for all staff with an amazing response. 

Our job as leaders is to listen and encourage open and ongoing discussions.  Of course, we need to do much more, i.e., more diversity in senior management. 

Also, a couple of other findings were extremely enlightening. First, most employees (96%) say that it is important to them to become a senior leader, so they want to work for a company that embraces their diversity and unique identity. Second, while our questions focused on diversity, i.e., race, gender, sexual identification, and physical disabilities, etc., political affiliation also emerged as an important part of an individual’s identity as well. Therefore, we need to create and foster a respectful and inclusive environment for all employee perspectives.

Katie Hermans, founder & CEO, Hermans International LLC
The missing element on equality, diversity, and inclusion is men actively sponsoring women’s development. It is time to stop focusing on “fixing the women.” It is true that women also need to help other women and do need to acknowledge the unconscious bias that they and other women face. 

However, it is men who dominate the senior, executive, and board ranks.  Without men proactively reaching backwards and sideways, to give women a leg up, inspire their confidence, and provide the growth opportunities — as well as the environment to support them as a whole person (mother, caregiver) — women won’t advance quickly. 

It is time to diversify — and well beyond women to other underrepresented populations in the C-suite. The business results speak for themselves.

Adrienne Brown, business analyst, UCB 
The missing element on equality, diversity, and inclusion is empathy, which allows us to open our minds and try to understand from another person’s perspective. Admittedly, we cannot claim to know how it is to be of another race, gender, or ethnicity. However, we can broaden our experiences by being around people that “don’t look like me” and asking candid questions. 

Most importantly, we need to prepare ourselves to hear the candid answers.  Those types of exchanges can help to bridge the gap and better connect with each other. We have to be able to better understand the struggles we all face. Instead of relying on stereotypes, we need to break down the walls and truly listen to the struggles, pains, and frustrations. Improving our knowledge and understanding of each other helps us to empathize in multiple situations.

Liz Kanter, president, Pivot Design
The missing element on equality, diversity, and inclusion is exposure — particularly on the part of those in positions of power.

It’s critical that we actively participate in diverse communities, making connections outside of our professional comfort zones. Building social relationships creates natural learning opportunities and helps us develop a shared sense of empathy.

Over time, this makes professional diversity opportunities more apparent to those with decision-making authority — and takes the burden to effect change off of the traditionally excluded. The effort isn’t just about numbers. It’s about creating environments that are designed to support inclusion. 

Lisa Garrone, partner, DePIRRO/GARRONE
The missing element on equality, diversity, and inclusion is more honesty. Equality, diversity, and inclusion need to be principles, not just percentages.

So we need the honesty to say that even when the boxes are checked off, we might still not be truly diverse in meaningful ways. The honesty to admit there are still walled-off sections of our industry, and we can’t ignore them just because we’re afraid to fail.

The honesty to agree that unless we begin at the beginning and educate a more diverse pool of people about our business when they’re just starting out, we’re not placing strong roots for the future of diversity to grow, and all our efforts risk being temporary.

Brittany Cowans, senior brand manager, glaucoma, Novartis
The missing element on equality, diversity, and inclusion is a desire to create authentic solutions that actually lead to cultural shifts within organizations. Far too often diversity and inclusion is simply a corporate initiative or check-the-box exercise rather than a series of meaningful exchanges in which people with truly different perspectives are given equal seats at the proverbial table. I believe when this is done in earnest, equality, diversity, and inclusion become organic by-products.

(MM&M thanks the HBA for their assistance with this project.)