In the rapidly evolving landscape of biotechnology, embracing Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DE&I) is more than a modern trend; it’s a strategic necessity. This is the crux of a compelling discussion between Adam Kaner, Senior VP of Project Management at PharmaLogics Recruiting, and Precillia Redmond, Founder & Principal of Maeve Consulting.
With over two decades of combined experience in HR biotech and life sciences, Redmond brings a wealth of knowledge in optimizing people and culture practices, enhancing organizational effectiveness, and fostering cultures of belonging and collaboration. Her work at Maeve Consulting, spanning from nonprofits to startups to established enterprises, is dedicated to implementing people and culture solutions that align with strategic goals. Redmond is a renowned expert in organizational development, change management, executive coaching, and team development.
As Kaner and Redmond delve into the challenges and propose solutions for integrating DE&I into the biotech sector, their insights offer a roadmap for meaningful change.
The Reality Behind DE&I Pledges in Biotech
The problem, as Redmond articulates, is the gap between intention and action. “Many companies are quick to take a pledge or commit in their hiring practices to DE&I, but reality often falls short,” she observes. “Especially in startups, the absence of a dedicated HR leader or the overwhelming workload can push DE&I to the back burner.” This statement sets the stage for a deeper exploration of the challenges in actualizing DE&I pledges in the biotech sector.
Challenging the Status Quo in Demographics
Redmond points out the uneven distribution of demographics within certain functional areas of biotech. “There’s a tendency for certain demographics to dominate specific areas. Addressing this requires not just a change in recruitment strategies but also a shift in organizational culture,” she explains.
Discussing demographic disparities, Redmond notes, “While we’ve made strides in gender equity, particularly at the PhD level, there’s a significant drop-off in women’s representation in senior leadership roles.” She emphasizes the need for intentional recruitment and development to bridge this gap. The issue is more pronounced in senior executive roles, where barriers such as a ‘glass ceiling’ or ‘cliff’ become apparent, hindering the advancement of women.
Similarly, ethnic and racial diversity presents its challenges. Redmond points out the underrepresentation of Black professionals in biotech, prompting a reevaluation of recruitment strategies. “We must question whether we’re being inclusive enough in our sourcing efforts, including building long-term relationships with Historically Black Colleges and Universities” she advises.
Ecosystem Influence on Recruitment
The influence of the broader ecosystem, including venture capitalists and their investment patterns, is identified as a significant factor in shaping recruitment practices. “There’s a cycle where talent recruitment is biased towards graduates from elite schools, or more immediate networks, often overlooking candidates representative of more diverse talent pools,” Kaner remarks, underscoring the need for a broader recruitment perspective.
Integrating DE&I into Strategic Planning
“Integrating DE&I shouldn’t be an afterthought; it needs to be part of the strategic planning from day one,” Redmond advises. She stresses the importance of making deliberate choices in partnering with sourcing and recruiting companies to align with DE&I objectives.
“For startups, the key is to start DE&I conversations early, at the founder level, and establish measurable goals,” Redmond suggests. This approach ensures that DE&I is woven into the fabric of the company’s culture and operations from the outset.
Employee Engagement in DE&I Initiatives
A critical aspect of embedding DE&I into an organization’s fabric is empowering employees to lead these initiatives. Redmond shared compelling examples from her experience to illustrate this point. “When employees take the helm of DE&I efforts, it not only lends authenticity but also ensures that these initiatives resonate more deeply with the workforce,” she explains.
One notable example Redmond mentioned involves the formation of an employee-driven culture committee. This group, voluntarily composed of employees, took the initiative to organize events and discussions focused on DE&I themes. “A particularly successful event was a lunch and learn session organized around Asian and Pacific Islander heritage. It was an engaging, informative event which was both enlightening and inclusive,” Redmond recalls.
She also shared how these employee-led initiatives can extend beyond cultural awareness. “In another instance, a small volunteer group put together a presentation that provided insights into different cultures and backgrounds. It was a simple yet powerful way to foster understanding and appreciation among the workforce about elements of their colleagues’ backgrounds that might otherwise have not been shared.”
Redmond emphasizes that such grassroots efforts are crucial in creating an inclusive culture. “These initiatives, driven by the employees themselves, demonstrate a genuine commitment to DE&I. They also help in creating an environment where everyone feels they belong and can contribute meaningfully.”
In agreement with this approach Kaner notes the value of these programs in not just educating but also in building a foundation of trust and inclusion within the organization. “Such initiatives offer a platform for employees to share their experiences and perspectives, enriching the company’s understanding of diversity and inclusion,” he adds.
A Call for Sustained Commitment
Concluding the discussion, Kaner reiterates, “This conversation is a call to action. It’s about moving beyond declarations to actualize a DE&I vision that reshapes the future of biotech.”
About Precillia Redmond
Precillia Redmond is the Founder and CEO of Maeve Consulting, focused on building out biotechnology companies from seed round on. Maeve Consulting partners with investors, founders and leadership teams to hire elite talent, develop authentic cultures, and establish all key people and culture elements of a company. Since 2018, Precillia and her team have supported the build and scaling of over thirty biotech companies across the U.S. and Europe. Precillia holds an MBA from Babson College, and is a doctoral student at University of Southern California. Outside of work, Precillia serves as the Chair of the Board for Compass Working Capital and enjoys spending time with her husband, two daughters and Vicky the Vizsla.
About Adam Kaner
Adam Kaner is a Senior Vice President of RPO and Project Management at PharmaLogics Recruiting. He has over 15 years of recruiting experience in Life Sciences, with over 14 years at PharmaLogics. Adam has provided recruitment support across North America and the EU, partnering with companies from seed funded startups through big pharma, on individual searches through large scale build outs. He has a Bachelors in Business Administration with a focus in Healthcare Management from the University of Connecticut.