Where Are We in Diversity and Inclusion in an Age of Relevance?

Last night, I addressed the San Francisco chapter of the Healthcare Business Women’s Association (HBA) on trends and insights related to diversity and inclusion coming out of the 37th Annual J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference, which took place in the city earlier this month. This was especially meaningful to me as I recently was selected to sit on the HBA’s Global Board of Advisors. This is a huge honor as HBA is dedicated to improving gender parity to achieve meaningful progress for women in business and optimize the benefit to business.

As the founder and CEO of W2O, one of the things I’m most proud of is our dedication to gender parity at all levels of the firm. It is without a doubt the reason for our continued growth and success.

In sharing insights on JPM 2019 – the annual conference that brings more than 9,000 healthcare investors, media and business development teams together for five days – I based my observations on presentations made by more than 450 executives from the world’s leading drug and biotech companies, who set the tone and expectations for performance over the year to come.

I’ve been attending this conference for more than 20 years and have witnessed an incredible amount of change in the industry. This year, my three main takeaways were:

  • Companies are positive about business in 2019.
  • Pipelines are a priority.
  • Margin expansion and investment are strategic imperatives.

Having said that, I focused my remarks last night, not on financial forecasts and outcome predictions of failures and success, but on what makes a business successful from the inside out. Additionally, in partnership with my W2O colleague, Senior Director of Analytics, Meredith Owen, I talked about how to leverage W2O’s analytics capabilities to measure and model just how critical it is to have the right balanced workforce where everyone’s ideas are heard and people can reach their full potential regardless of gender, ethnicity or sexual orientation.

The W2O Healthcare Relevance Index is an annual report that looks at approximately 60 Fortune 500 companies in the healthcare industry and applies a proprietary analytics model to determine the relevance of organizations on the topic of diversity and inclusion. In this age of social and digital, Relevance is the new Reputation. If your organization is relevant, it’s engaging with key stakeholders on terms that are mutually beneficial. The outcome impacts sales, profitability, recruitment, retention, innovation, leadership and valuation.

The 2019 W2O Healthcare Relevance Index includes the following topline findings:

  • Healthcare organizations are not making the progress necessary in diversity and inclusion as demanded by key stakeholders.
  • Diversity and inclusion must be a CEO mandate. (My experience alone reinforces that notion.)
  • Employees are moving the dialogue to diversity and inclusion and signaling its importance to their productivity.
  • Innovation remains an elusive elixir as we heard at JPM 2019. Yet, a remedy is about adding new and different voices to ideation.
  • Diversity and inclusion is not a communications problem but an organizational issue that must be addressed at the C-Suite level. Commitment to change is key

As I shared with HBA, my mother shaped my thinking with regard to diversity and inclusion at a very young age. She was the CEO of a business and was very successful breaking all kinds of barriers at the time and instilling in me a belief in a better approach and system based on the human spirit and ideal. It’s how I ultimately built my firm and why dialogue, discussion and debate rule, and why multiple voices are respected and heard.

As we look at the healthcare industry in 2019, one could argue that things are moving in the right direction regarding diversity and inclusion. But, there needs to be a sense of urgency. A commitment that accelerates improvement.

To that end, all of us must voice our opinions and challenge the industry to do better. Our collective futures depend on it!

Jim


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Jim Weiss
Jim Weiss

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