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“Diversity” isn’t the only issue, it’s “Inclusion” too

Innovation Center October 30th, 2017

Robert G. Urban, Ph.D., Global Head, Johnson & Johnson Innovation

The demographics of our world and workplaces continue to evolve.  More and more often we see individuals around us who don’t seem exactly “like us.”  Perhaps it is in our schools or in our neighborhoods, and increasingly it is in our place of work.  For decades now, the obstacles to participate have been slowly coming down and, for those willing to take on these opportunities less and less has stood in their way-- but we still have a long way to go.

And moving beyond the numbers, what “we see” compared to what “others feel” can be, and often truly is, worlds apart.  This is the chasm that separates what we call diversity (having a broad mix of individuals included) from inclusivity (having everyone feel that they belong).

While moderating a panel on leadership excellence last week at The Boston Club, we reflected on what makes high impact workplaces possible.  Quickly the discussion turned to inclusivity, unconscious bias and other “invisible” hurdles that can really hold talented employees back.   

Most of us have seen firsthand the successes that can come from truly focusing attention on these cultural details.  At Johnson & Johnson we aim to go beyond talking and drive inclusive behaviors into how we do our work every day.  As our business deeply relies on innovation, which in turn is wholly dependent on fresh thinking, creating an environment where diversity of thought is welcome with all voices participating is paramount.   Females at Johnson & Johnson make up more than 40 percent of our leadership team. Twenty-three percent of our JLABS-based incubator companies are led by female CEOs, and 18 percent by an ethnic minority — numbers that far exceed industry standards.

These statistics are a point of pride for us, and importantly reflect the culture of inclusiveness that we aim to foster.  Our diversity and inclusion efforts aren’t short-term initiatives or fads; there is no finish line to cross.   Rather, inclusiveness must to be designed into the fabric of our collective cultures and touch on every piece of our day — from the questions we ask while interviewing job candidates, to the mentoring and support that helps all of us know every day that we belong.

The recent Women in the Workplace report by LeanIn.Org and McKinsey & Company reinforces the notion that gender equality remains way too low across corporate America.  And much of this relates to retention and the belief (or lack thereof) by individuals that they too can rise into leadership roles independent of where they grow up, went to school, who they are related to, their accent, skin tone, or gender identity.  That their story is a winning story and they are proud to share and wear it.

These issues must be recognized for what they are: persistent, complex and incredibly important priorities that will not fully disappear in our lifetimes.  But as leaders of large and small organizations, in government and in even in our own homes, we must take responsibility for our personal role in setting these expectations.  Hard work indeed, but the rewards are priceless.  

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