Before 2020, and the soul-searching it prompted, the medical marketing industry’s DE&I track record might charitably have been described as spotty.
After all, it wasn’t as if the twin wallops of COVID-19 and the killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery laid bare the rot in our social, economic and health infrastructures for the first time. The industry had long struggled with issues around diversity and health equity, whether in the form of racially unbalanced clinical trial cohorts or the overly white composition of companies’ workforces.
But after the summer of 2020, inaction was no longer an option. Stakeholders, most notably employees, demanded more than words. Companies rose to the moment, sometimes unsteadily but in most cases genuinely.
The worry at the time was that the business would fall back into old patterns. You remember the drill: After any incident that thrust DE&I deficiencies into the spotlight, companies would issue statements and form committees. They’d pledge to listen and ask to be judged by their actions going forward. Then four months later, when the furor died down, their commitments would fade along with it.
So how do we know that today’s commitment to DE&I won’t become tomorrow’s afterthought, as it has so many times before? We don’t. But what’s encouraging in the wake of the upheaval of the last few years is that DE&I is no longer a seasonal concern. Nearly every healthcare and marketing entity of note has put into place organizational benchmarks — C-suite diversity is among the most popular metrics — and transparently measured themselves against them.
At industry events, discussions around DE&I are no longer characterized as “tough conversations.” They’re viewed as vital ones, far more crucial to the industry’s well-being than the hundreds of hours spent rhapsodizing about “beyond the pill.”
This year’s Diversity Issue attempts to capture the spirit and vigor of the industry’s belated awakening. We affirm the importance of representation at the point of care, noting its connection to better outcomes. We outline the business case — as opposed to the doing-the-right-thing case — for more finely nuanced multicultural marketing. And in our cover story, we question whether the industry’s progress on the DE&I front has left LGBTQIA+ communities, especially people who identify as trans, behind.
Just as DE&I tops the priority list for the companies MM+M covers, so too is it an editorial imperative for the brand going forward. Know that we’re here for the conversations — the thoughtful ones, the uncomfortable ones and all others.