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Diversity… more than a buzz word.

Innovation Center January 6th, 2017

Seema Kumar, Vice President of Innovation, Global Health and Policy Communication at Johnson & Johnson

I recently came across a New York Times OpEd in which the authors likened diversity to fresh air.

“It benefits everybody who experiences it (and) by disrupting conformity, it produces a public good,” say Sheen S. Levine, professor at the Jindal School of Management at the University of Texas at Dallas and David Stark, professor of sociology at Columbia.

Their studies show that by breathing fresh perspective into prevailing wisdom, diversity prevents stale and often flawed group think and improves the overall cognitive performance and critical reasoning ability of individuals working in groups.

Over the years, diversity has become somewhat of a buzzword, and scholars and advocates alike have attempted to define the benefits of diversity and inclusion in many ways. At most organizations, the benefit is opportunity to leverage the improved performance that diversity promotes.

That is true for us at Johnson & Johnson as well, and, in addition, we believe that growth depends maximizing the global power of diversity and inclusion to bring the best science, technology and ideas to deliver healthcare solutions. A great idea can come from anywhere in the world, and innovation depends on finding those great ideas, whether from within our own walls or from around the world, regardless of ethnicity, geography, gender or generation.

So, for us, it is not just a nice to do, but a must do to drive superior business results and create sustainable competitive advantage. Companies in the top quartile for gender, racial or ethnic diversity are more likely to have financial returns above their national industry medians. And it’s not just about financial wherewithal; it’s also about generating promising ideas that better meet the needs of men and women of all cultures and ethnicities that will be using our products. In a country like the US, where more than half of the 20 million children under age five identify as racial and ethnic minorities, that’s important for our future as well as theirs.

Yet, while research shows diversity creates stronger life sciences ecosystems, the fact is our industry still has a long way to go. The good news is that we all are keenly aware of the issue and we all believe we need to work together to change it. But, our ability to affect this change over the long term requires that we work now to create that future. By inspiring young women and minorities into STEM education and careers today, we can ensure a more robust and diverse pipeline for the future. And, that not only do we prioritize diversity within our individual organizations, but also that we work together to build a diverse talent pipeline within the ecosystem as a whole. Without a collaborative effort to educate, attract, retain and advance a more diverse talent pool—from kindergarten through the highest levels of leadership—our industry will continue to miss opportunities and breakthrough ideas.

So, it is critical that we keep this discussion at the forefront, and to work together to find and implement solutions that can potentially benefit all life science companies—and ultimately society.

For those of you who will be in San Francisco in January for the many biotech-related conferences and events, please join me at the Biotech Showcase panel event: Utilizing Biotech’s Biggest Untapped Resource: Diversity.  I look forward to an interactive discussion that will include viewpoints from biotech leaders and other leaders of influence. I hope to see you there.

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