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DE&I: breaking out of the echo chamber

By Sam Bremner

Sam Bremner

For many years, pharmaceutical companies have been working with their agency partners towards a more patient-centric world, including a growing focus on patient diversity in areas such as clinical trial recruitment and patient education. And now COVID-19 has shone an even brighter light on the importance of diverse patient representation across many disciplines to help address health inequality.

But how can we, as supposed experts in healthcare marketing and communications, truly make a difference in external diversity and inclusion programmes if we are no better in our own internal organisational make-up. Charity begins at home, isn’t that what they say?

While I do believe that most companies now have an ambition to move away from being ‘male, pale and stale’, the question is: how do we get there?

Be data-driven

Undoubtedly, there is a long road ahead and a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. You need data to be able to understand where your organisation is on the journey. The simplest way to do this is an annual self-identification staff survey capturing gender, sexuality, race, disability, socio-economic status and so on. This can also be done as new people join. Your own information, combined with ONS and other published data, will help to benchmark and set ambitious but achievable goals. What gets measured, gets done, right?

Ownership is key

It’s crucial to make sure there is someone who leads the initiatives and that this person has a mandate within the organisation to bring about change. That person’s role could start with the development of a commitment statement and policy before taking action. We all know that change management is one of the toughest things we do, so that person will need plenty of support and a robust rationale – and won’t be afraid to discuss the commercial benefits of a truly diverse workforce. Staff reps and staff-led groups are helpful for consultation, but more than that, they can be embedded into the organisational structure to advise on the work produced as well as internal initiatives, which will accelerate culture change. And they can help make it fun. Our staff-led groups have a budget to organise awareness and educational events throughout the year. These have included our own campaign for Black Awareness Month – a gallery of black British icons in our London office – a series of emailers for Trans Awareness Week and a celebration of Vote 100. Our staff-led groups have direct access to the group board.

Little things mean a lot

You probably won’t be able to tackle everything at once, so consider a phased approach. You may, for instance, start with a plan to address ethnic diversity and then follow up with initiatives around disability, LGBT+ and socio-economic diversity and inclusion. But that doesn’t mean that you cannot implement small changes across a number of areas. Our office reception has a number of small flags on the desk, including the pride rainbow and transgender flags. A recent visitor to our office could not have been more effusive about the positive impact that small gesture had made – she felt immediately welcome, included and accepted before she’d even spoken to anyone. Surely we want all employees and future employees to feel this way?

Other easy things you can do is to ensure all your job ads have a DE&I statement, ensure your marketing communications portray a diverse and inclusive organisation and join the government’s Disability Confident employer scheme.

Don’t go it aloneAs well as government schemes, there are other partnerships you can forge to help along the journey. Feedback was particularly positive, for instance, about the unconscious bias training delivered to our staff by Equaliteach and about training given to all staff to improve their understanding of neurodiversity and the positive effect neurodiverse staff can have in the workplace. We work with Black Professionals Network, Spark! and Future Frontiers and have

a long-standing relationship with the Taylor Bennett Foundation. The week we are joined by Taylor Bennett Foundation candidates is always really special. It is said that if you light a lamp for someone else, it will also brighten your path.

Never-ending story

Unlike some kind of quality accreditation you may be aiming for, DE&I is not just a tick-box exercise. In truth, the DE&I journey is probably never-ending. Nor should it be. For organisations to continually evolve and operate beyond an echo chamber takes time and effort, but the personal and professional rewards can be immense.

Sam Bremner is Managing Director of Four Health Communications

Sam Bremner is Managing Director of Four Health Communications

1st April 2022

From: Marketing

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