La’Wana Harris, Director, Global Leadership Development, Sanofi US
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Addressing Diversity and Inclusion
PharmaVOICE 100 — 2018 La’Wana Harris, Director, Global Leadership Development, Sanofi US, discusses diversity and inclusion in the pharmaceutical industry.
PV: Why is diversity and inclusion important?
Harris: From a business perspective, the data clearly show that diversity and inclusion (D&I) is an enabler of employee engagement and innovation, as well as profitability. A number of sources, including McKinsey and other research groups, have looked at various segments around the world, and the data are clear. It’s good business to have a diverse and inclusive workforce.
Additionally, business environments that are truly diverse and inclusive are the places people want to work. They enjoy their work. They enjoy their peers. There is a better corporate culture. Whether it’s from the perspective of a good work environment in general or from the hardcore bottom-line of income profitability, diversity and inclusion is a win-win.
PV: What would it look like for the pharmaceutical industry to be diverse and inclusive?
Harris: While there has been some progress — and we should celebrate those advances — the amount of progress we would have expected over the span of 50 years has not yet been realized. In fact, one of most alarming statistics is that for the first time, the gender parity gap, and the time that it would take to close that gap, actually increased.
The pharmaceutical workforce should resemble the population. And I’m not just talking about cultural diversity. There are people with different abilities and orientations that should be included as well. The look of success is beyond the optics.
Leadership must also be diverse in order to lead diverse teams and to drive revenue and be relevant. Our market is more global than ever, and this impacts how we do business. Because of our increasingly interconnected world, it’s no longer okay to only know how to conduct business in the United States. We need to know how to interact in emerging markets. We need to know the importance of interactions in a globalized marketplace.
When a company has diverse leaders — all categories of diversity — then it can go into different markets and be relevant, and most importantly, have cultural agility to penetrate that market and understand how to serve that marketplace.
PV: How can the industry better address D&I?
Harris: I feel that the next level of inclusion requires a candor and vulnerability that we have yet to achieve. I believe one avenue to advance diversity and inclusion, certainly not the only way, is coaching. Collectively, our efforts up until now have been from the outside in. Coaching allows us to approach diversity and inclusion from the inside out. It’s one thing to provide employees with information about unconscious bias, etc. Coaching, however, allows a deeper engagement, where people can own their truth and then work through what needs to happen relative to inclusive leadership behaviors.
I have developed a model for inclusion coaching that I’ll be introducing through a new book. Hopefully, this will enable an approach to D&I from the inside out to help bring people along the journey.
PV: What steps has Sanofi taken in the area of D&I?
Harris: Cristina Santos, head, inclusion and diversity, North America, leads a number of initiatives in the United States, including the company’s employee resources groups (ERGs) focused on multicultural issues, bringing together opportunities to look at cultural agility, Pride for LGBT, and Women Inspiring Sanofi Excellence (WISE), just to name a few. These ERGs engage employees at a grass-roots level, which is one of the ways that Sanofi has opened the door for conversations across the board. We’re recognizing October as Inclusion and Diversity Month throughout Sanofi North America.
In addition, Wema Hoover, global head of inclusion and diversity, is taking steps to position Sanofi on the leading edge of creating an inclusive work environment. Our global leadership development team is supporting the inclusion and diversity strategy by working to embed inclusive leadership behaviors throughout the leadership development curriculum.(PV)
Diversity: Beyond Lip Service
La’Wana Harris, director, global leadership development, Sanofi US, will be introducing a new way to approach diversity and inclusion through the use of coaching. Her new book explores how one-on-one coaching can address diversity from the inside out. She explores strategies for getting beneath the superficial layers of engagement and delves into the root causes for resistance and apathy relative to diversity, equity, and inclusion. The book, titled Diversity Beyond Lip Service — A Coaching Guide for Challenging Bias, will be available in May 2019.