Pharma marketing leaders talked about the challenges that minority groups, including racial and ethnic minorities and the LGBTQ community, face in the industry at MM&M’s PlusOne event in Philadelphia on Thursday.
Some attendees discussed employees who feel that they need to “code-switch” or “wear a mask” at work to fit in, while others talked about making room in executive circles for diverse members.
“I’m a veteran of corporate America for more than 20 years; less than 1% of that career I spent with peers or bosses who were either gender diverse, sexually diverse, or racially and ethnically diverse,” said Aurora Archer, founder and CEO of agency Bellatrix Group. “It sat in such contrast to those we had been entrusted to serve.”
Roundtable discussions touched on the balance many minority employees strike between remaining true to themselves and trying to fit in. Several black women attendees talked about measuring their emotions at work so they don’t come across as a stereotype of the “angry black woman.”
Others mentioned the importance of advocating for themselves and other minority employees, whether through mentorship or simply speaking up in meetings. One attendee said she learned to advocate for herself and others not yet at her level when she’s “in that moment of influence” because of her position.
Some attendees also spoke about being the only diverse members of brand teams for conditions that mostly affect minorities, like diabetes. Archer said that she helped to close that gap by requiring that the account and creative teams “reflect the population they serve.”
The event’s keynote, a spoken word poem from Bethanee Epifani, highlighted the isolation patients can feel when their healthcare doesn’t reflect them, whether that’s people of color or LGBTQ people. Epifani recalled her own, and her family’s, experiences with doctors of different races, saying their interactions were “lost in translation.”
She also called on healthcare marketers to bridge the gap by incorporating more diverse voices into their work.
“Healthcare marketers have a role to play,” Epifani said. “As marketers you create, communicate, and deliver health information, you serve as bridge between the patient and service you are trying to promote. How do you connect to a market you know nothing about? How do you connect and communicate effectively when that market is not even reflected in your own industry?”