What you missed: HBA Boston's signature event on Wednesday, 14 June hosted and sponsored at Pfizer’s beautiful new facility in Cambridge
A catered garden party was followed by a cross-functional panel discussion and Q&A on “Gender Diversity: A Roundtable Conversation with Leaders from Across Industries.” The discussion, introduced by HBA executive vice president Liz Coyle, moderated by Pamela Puryear of Pfizer, included Javier Barrientos of Biogen, Paul Francisco of State Street, Maureen Franco of Cambridge BioMarketing, and Jane Steinmetz of EY.
Gender diversity and gender parity was discussed as being no longer just an HR issue; it is a business imperative and a key driver of innovation among progressive companies. Research has shown better returns for companies with gender balance; for example, State Street created the She fund comprised of companies that has a high proportion of women in executive and director positions which may have been the impetus for “Fearless Girl” on Wall Street, debuted on International Women’s Day this year.
References were made to the HBR article Why Diversity Programs Fail, whose takeaways include the need for social accountability among leaders. Indeed, at Biogen, gender diversity means trying to be a gender intelligent organization, where leaders must leverage and apply their “inclusive muscle”, thinking and approaches not only to the workforce but to customers and the entire supply chain too. Everyone must be responsible for “owing diversity”, from the board room to the lunch room.
At Cambridge BioMarketing, they have found that the most highly functioning teams have been diverse, and at State Street, it’s important to strike a balance across the voices at the table. An apt analogy from Francisco of State Street: with gambling, you need a full deck of cards in order to succeed. Likewise, a company needs a full spectrum of talent.
Steinmetz of EY reported 40 initiatives across the world to expand gender diversity. Given the correlation between being fit and success as a leader in business (see Boston’s Fit To Lead program), EY targets Olympian athletes to recruit and retain post-Olympic career. Further, senior leaders must take on responsibility for sponsoring, not just mentoring, women, requiring leaders to be accountable for promotions and leadership opportunities.
Barrientos of Biogen said: “Don’t build half a bridge.” A company needs to walk the talk, and employ these important fundamental practices that may have a direct impact on gender diversity:
- When looking at resumes, scrub all personal info, such as names, references to age or ethnicity and just look at experience and competencies
- Have pay equity
- Include on-site child care
- Create flexible schedules
- Have a generous parental, not just maternal, leave policy (e.g. Microsoft has recently extended paid maternity leave to 20 weeks)
As a leader some practical takeaways for immediate action include:
- Don’t opt out
- Challenge yourself to be a more inclusive leader
- When hiring, insist on a wide ranging candidate pool and be open to a wide range of candidates
- Assemble teams comprised of a mix of people with different backgrounds
- Within your scope of influence be accountable for diversity and expect it of others
- Acknowledge and celebrate when others make progress on diversity
Discussion was followed by Q&A and dessert. We look forward to seeing you at one of our many HBA Boston events.