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Smart Thinking blog

Insights and expert advice on the key issues facing today’s pharma marketer

Diversity and inclusion

It may not be something we can change overnight, but it is certainly something we need to start to address now

Sitting down to write this article is probably the first time that I am actually apprehensive about what to write.

It’s not that I am stuck on what I want to say on the topic, it is because I am a white, middle- aged man who went to university and has been lucky to have been in professional work since the day I graduated. So, for some people, they may feel I firmly fit a demographic that is part of the problem of the lack of diversity and inclusion and am therefore not the person to be writing about it.

However, if we are going to address the challenges and truly achieve diversity and inclusion throughout our sector, then I suggest we need absolutely everybody to engage in the solutions. And if white middle-aged men are part of the problem, we most certainly need to engage with them as an important stakeholder in the solution.

Is good intent enough?

Let me start by saying that in my career or personal life I have always tried to never consciously unfairly discriminate against anybody. However, what I realise I have to consider, and perhaps many of us do, is whether because of the society we live in or have been brought up in, if we have ever shown unconscious bias or have failed to recognise or challenge scenarios that lacked diversity and inclusion.

Similarly, I would like to think I have always earned and been given the roles I have undertaken on my merit alone. But do I truly know if there were others that could have been more suitable but were discriminated against either directly or because they were not given the same opportunities as me?

In recruiting, I believe I have not shown prejudice in who I have interviewed or chosen for a role. But, by the very fact that in the majority of cases I have been recruiting graduates, have I already been fishing in a pond where diversity and inclusion is not as it should be?

This means that, however genuine I am in my desire to be inclusive to all, by the very nature of who I am, where I live and the opportunities I have had, I have to accept that I may have inadvertently been part of the problem. But one thing I can be definitive about is my desire to actively contribute to being part of the solution.

The problem is undeniable

There clearly is a real problem with diversity and inclusion, which is shocking when you consider the developed society in which we live. No decent human being can have been anything but horrified to see the media images of the death of George Floyd and be very understanding of the anger and appreciate the importance of the public consciousness generated, particularly through the Black Lives Matter movement.

Looking at the stats for university entrance in the UK, there is still a long way to go to ensure every schoolchild has the same opportunity irrespective of their ethnicity, sex, disability or social background. Gender pay gaps still exist in many sectors. Sexual, racial, age, gender expression, religion and disability are just some examples where prejudice and stereotyping in the workplace still exists.

So there are many areas where significant change is required to achieve true diversity and inclusion. These things are so ingrained in our society. It may not be something we can change overnight, but it is certainly something we need to focus on and start to address now, not tomorrow.

We have to listen

But how? I want to believe that opening dialogue is an essential first step in helping to achieve true diversity and inclusion. In reality, how can I really know what it’s like and how somebody who experiences prejudice every day feels?

I don’t and would be naive to say I can empathise because I have been lucky enough not to experience it. But by taking the time to ask, by talking, and more importantly listening, we can hopefully gain the insights to ensure whatever action we take personally, or collectively, is focused on really making a difference, rather than just being seen to want to make a difference.

Diversity and inclusion makes good business sense

Ensuring diversity and inclusion is not just morally right, it also makes us better communication businesses. Many of the demographics we struggle to communicate with effectively are those we are also failing to include and treat equally in our workforce.

It does not take much of a leap to recognise that those who are part of those communities or demographics are probably best placed to help in delivering the most effective ways to communicate.

The communications sector needs to be committed

The Healthcare Communications Association is committed to working with the sector to improve diversity and inclusion. We will listen, we will consider diversity and inclusion in everything we do and we will encourage and support activity that helps deliver this aim.

Every communicator has a role and we will be working inclusively to help make our sector the best it can be at diversity and inclusion. Only by working together on this common aim will we truly achieve it.

Mike Dixon is CEO of the Healthcare Communications Association (HCA) and a communications consultant

28th September 2020

From: Marketing

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