The never-ending road to DE&I

As healthcare companies continue to refine and expand methods of achieving diversity, equity and inclusion, DE&I leaders know their efforts are not a sprint, but part of an ongoing journey.

By Christiane Truelove • [email protected]

The issues of diversity, equity and inclusion have not gone away in society at large in 2021, and as COVID-19 laid bare existing inequities in healthcare, healthcare communications agencies – and their clients – continue to address the challenges of DE&I.

The executives in this article – Subarna Malakar, Head of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion, North America at Sanofi; James Kinney, Ogilvy’s Global Chief Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Officer and Chief People Officer for North America; and Chanta’ Stewart, VP, Head of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion at Evoke KYNE – spoke of the DE&I programs and trends at their own organizations, the reasons for creating certain tactics, and why their organizations are planning continued expansion of these programs in the future.

What are the challenges for DE&I, as you see them in your organization?

James Kinney

James Kinney: So the challenges that we face are not unique. The environment that we’re in with all brands is that diversity is a journey. And I think no matter where you set understanding that, corrections won’t happen overnight. And taking care of the people that you have is what the most important thing is. So we see our journey with diversity as again as a 10-year project. We have relationships with HBCUs, faith-based organizations, hiring people with transferrable skills, but making sure that Ogilvy Health is a place where we can retain, grow, and develop diverse talent, is really what our greatest calling is.

So the investments that we make in talent development through programs like “100 Percent You” where we’re bringing all women to the table and women of color to the table, to develop our people and teach them diverse skills, is one way we look to meet those challenges head on. And then again, it’s our relationships with like a Howard University in D.C. that allows us to combat those. So in other words, the challenges aren’t unique, but how we tackle them, I think, is innovative, meaning, you know, the states that we can hire from and expanding what that aperture looks like and making sure that we hire folks from different points of the spectrum. Because, you know, if you just focus on the collegiate market, then you’re missing the mid-market in the senior market.

So we really been setting up that infrastructure – transferrable skills, transferrable skills, transferrable skills – for example, we just hired a diverse candidate that has a background from CNN. And it’s one of the most-cool new hires that we have. Our teams set to make sure that we can hire someone who was diverse, that doesn’t have a traditional healthcare background, but came from CNN. Now we’re bringing a true diverse candidate, with diversity of thought based off of the industry that they came from.

Subarna Malakar

Subarna Malakar: Like many organizations, DE&I efforts at Sanofi are challenged by multiple factors, such as low diverse representation at senior levels and barriers to hiring diverse talent. Sanofi US strives to have 50 percent representation of women in senior leadership and 37 percent People of Color (POC) by 2025. While we are on the journey of achieving this, the current low diverse representation at senior levels limits diversity of perspectives and experiences, challenging our recruitment/retention efforts as people strive to see others like themselves reflected in all levels of the organization and may become disengaged if that diversity is not reflected. Additionally, hiring diverse talent may be challenged by unconscious bias at the hiring manager level and/or on interview panels, and reinforces the opportunity to constantly re-imagine our hiring strategies, outreach, and tactics.

Chanta’ Stewart: I believe there are a few challenges for all organizations when it comes to DE&I and I’ll just kind of run off of, you know, top three or so that I see, first being ensuring that DE&I is really permeating throughout the business, and kind of breaking down that notion that DE&I belongs to one person. It doesn’t just belong to the HR person, doesn’t just belong to me and DE&I, it really is all of our responsibility. So that’s one main thing. Also, as you know, attracting and retaining diverse talent, especially in leadership positions, we see that across the industry, and that’s something that we truly are working on. Also, we’re in COVID. So maintaining that sense of inclusivity, and belonging in this virtual environment, we have colleagues who haven’t met each other ever, so we need to make sure that they still feel included, when they’re grouped with people who have these long-term relationships and have seen each other in person before the pandemic. And then lastly, it sounds cliché, but I always say fear. We have the fear of saying the wrong thing, or mistakenly offending anyone, but on the other side of that, fear of change. It’s understanding, it’s that ‘aha moment’ for most people, and we get people together to talk, actually just have real conversations. Usually, it turns out that they are more alike than what they think. So, you know, kind of getting on the other side of fear, because, you know, none of us will get it right 100 percent of the time, but that’s OK. It’s really about the respect and the value, as you are kind of creating that dialogue and connection.

How do you believe these challenges can best be addressed?

James Kinney: I use the analogy of a lighthouse. You know, Ogilvy Health is a lighthouse and a beacon – so that no matter where you are in the world, you know that you have a safe place and a guiding light to go to. And what that means in corporate terms, or in DE&I terms is, it’s an inclusive place, where you can fully grow, be developed and learn the skills. I think when you look at the “Great Resignation,” and the market that we’ve been in, even pre-pandemic, our people no matter what stage in your careers, and you want to go somewhere where you can grow, and you want to feel psychologically safe. So again, no matter where you’re serving for Ogilvy Health from a global perspective, knowing that you can be developed through the programs that we have.

I’ll just give you another example. We just did a world’s first, and it’s called “Mindful Manager.’” So I’m fortunate to have some relationships at Calm, the chief people officer there is one of my really good friends through a professional context. And I went to him and I said, “Scott, you know, the war is won in the middle.’” Meaning that how we treat our managers and how we train our managers, they turn around and have the compassion and the care for the teams where their work really, really happens, right? Whether you’re strategy, government affairs, communications, creative, or wherever you serve, in Ogilvy Health, I wanted to create something specifically for managers, to make managers mindful. And we kind of had this ‘ding ding ding’ moment. And we were like, cool, let’s create Mindful Manager and it’s not in the app, you can’t find it anywhere. And we’ve launched it as a world’s first. So across the entire Ogilvy network in North America, we have 850 managers that are part of Mindful Manager. And that’s getting on in this digital format and meditating together and being mindful together for 10 minutes each morning before we start our day.

When you look at that, how it intrinsically influences the culture of Ogilvy Health, that’s what I’m talking about. That’s how we create the lighthouse, the beacon, so that when you arrive here on day one, from onboarding, and to how managers treat their people, they’re mindful in those communications, in those approaches, in those workloads.

And recently, I’ve done a lot of talk about burnout, right, so we’re assessing the workloads at Ogilvy Health, from the financial organization, to the people organization, and to the account function to balance those workloads, so that it is a place where you can be a working mother, for example. And if you’re a single person, you’re not punished.

Subarna Malakar: These challenges can be addressed by integrating diversity, equity and inclusion in all aspects of our culture, ways of working, systems and processes. This includes thinking beyond DE&I training and embedding DE&I learnings culturally, such as in team meetings, town halls, mentorship programs, development conversations, etc. Additionally, these challenges can be addressed by constantly evolving our recruitment strategies to respond to the ever-changing talent market, best practices, and needs of our organization, and ensuring the expectations are understood and pulled through at the hiring manager level. Lastly, challenges to DE&I can be addressed through analytics and accountability; analytics should be leveraged to empower leaders with awareness and sharpen their focus areas, and accountability ensures decision-makers have a responsibility to convert ambitions into concrete actions that move Sanofi DE&I objectives forward.

Chanta’ Stewart

Chanta’ Stewart: With any type of change management initiative, I want people to understand that that takes time, deliberate action, dedicated resources – and dollars, let’s not forget the dollars – in holding ourselves accountable to this long-lasting change. So some of the things that we’ve been doing, in terms of trying to address some of these are appointing dedicated leaders and teams that are dedicated to this work. Yes, it’s the responsibility of all of us, but as you wouldn’t have a financial team without a CFO, you need to have someone kind of strategically leading DE&I work. But also continuing to expand our pipeline of candidates, leveraging different outreach avenues and partnerships — we have to meet people where they are, especially in this virtual environment. We can’t do the same thing and expect different results, we need to be continuing to update and develop our systems and policies and programs, to make sure that we’re creating an equitable and inclusive environment for our diverse talents to thrive. It’s not enough to bring them in, but we have to make sure that they have what they need to succeed as well, having those opportunities for dialogue, growth and awareness. And then also collecting the appropriate data to make sure that it’s informing and helping what we’re doing. We’re also working in partnership with the broader Evoke team, as they develop a broader level of strategy to guide this work into the future as well. So those are some of the things we’re doing.

What are you advocating should be occurring at your organization?

Subarna Malakar: Continued emphasis on diverse representation at all levels, especially in senior leadership, as well as a sharpened emphasis on evolving our recruitment, hiring, development and retention policies. To drive results in our DE&I efforts, our organization should continue to hold itself accountable and invite the perspectives and ideas of employees and society in all aspects of our DE&I initiatives.

James Kinney: The representation that we have internally allows us to have authentic connections and communications with growth audiences. I’m just going to use gender as a real quick example, the majority of our population at Ogilvy Health is female. But we know that we’ve inherited a world where most of the doctors were men. And if we’re talking about reproductive health, or women’s health, let’s just say that a male doctor might have more theory than practical application because they they’re not a woman, and they don’t have women’s bodies.

So as we continue to escalate our representation by all classes, having employees who are trans, having employees who are Black, so that when we talk about Black women are more likely to die during childbirth, we have Black women who can sit at those tables with the clients and tell them not only from a professional expertise perspective, why we’re doing XYZ creative strategy, but their personal experience. And I’ve seen this health inclusion, show up so much in the work that we’ve done.

There’s a client’s name that I can’t mention here, but I was on a pitch, for Ogilvy Health, and I’m glad that I was there, because, I was able to talk about Black men in a barber shop. And when we’re talking about oncology, and Black men dying of prostate cancer, we can put billboards all over the country, we can run radio ads, we can have the best creative, but if we’re not resonating with Black men as an audience, of why it’s cool to get early testing, we’re not really cracking the code on that conversation. It can’t be theory from us, it has to be boots-on-the-ground understanding with deep cultural nuance.

So our diversity, as we continue to hire, recruit, develop, and retain the smartest people in the world, and the most creative people in the world, that representation enables us to have the most authentic conversations that are possible, and I think everyone really appreciates that.

Chanta’ Stewart: Ah, so, so many things, because this work is so multifaceted. Of course, for me, the main top-of-mind thing for me is always diversifying our workforce, particularly our senior leadership, making sure we have succession plans in place as well. Creating opportunities and experiences for our team to truly get to know each other and have them be able to show up authentically and build that psychological safety. Beyond diversifying our workforce, also diversifying the work that we do with our clients, as well as our suppliers and vendors to make sure that’s more representative of diverse cultures and backgrounds. In tandem with that, more community engagement work, which is something that our social impact team is already under way with efforts, they’re improving our data collection – there’s so much data to pull from and so many different places.

So really making sure we can improve that data collection, so that we can appropriately assess things like pay parity and equity and promotions across various groups. And then another thing that is really important to me, too, going beyond mentorship, and creating opportunities for sponsorship, there is a difference there. And I want to make sure people understand that. Those are some of the things I am passionate about, and advocating for, at Evoke KYNE.

What kind of impact can the measures taken at your organization have on society at large?

Subarna Malakar: DE&I measures at Sanofi can positively impact society by promoting greater access to opportunities for all. The broadened access landscape can impact the systemic barriers to equity in our societies, and subsequently transform our communities by impacting the lives of historically marginalized groups and ultimately the patients and customers we serve.

Chanta’ Stewart: Great question. A lot of impact, honestly, by setting some of the goals we have around diversifying our workforce, and making health equity as a focus. By having health equity as a focus area, not only for our client work, but also for our philanthropy and social impact work, we’re able to affect change – both inside and outside of the organization – not only among the industry, but in the communities where we live and work. So that’s how we’re able to have an impact on society at large.

James Kinney: Something that I do every single month is called “Welcome to Ogilvy.“ And it’s with all new hires. We have a new Ogilvy Health person that is on our Pfizer business, and I was able to say that on the call, “Thank you for the work that you’re doing in the world.” But the world has kind of gone nuts over the [COVID]vaccines, and a really big thought that I had last night just driving around, is that the way the world sees vaccines will never be the same again.
I had written a paper a couple weeks ago, “Consumer Healthcare is Sick – Trust is the Ever-Elusive Medicine,” where we were talking about at Ogilvy Health, the opportunity for brands, in particular pharma brands and healthcare brands, to have more of a direct-to-consumer relationship, because the perception of public health is so important. Another one of my best friends was a doctor in the Navy. Now he works at the NIH, and I was talking to him about this perception of vaccines and public health. And he said, “Well, we’ve been so privileged as a society that we’ve never had to have the conversation about what is public health.”

So the work that Ogilvy Health does in order to help our clients and culture and society as a whole, understand the beauty and the good of public health, rare and infectious diseases, vaccines, wellness, preventative health care. That’s huge.

What can your organization do in outreach to make its DE&I initiatives even more meaningful?

Subarna Malakar: Consistency, leadership and accountability are key in ensuring Sanofi’s DE&I initiatives are meaningful – particularly, a consistent approach to DE&I efforts in all aspects of our culture, systems, processes and ways of working. Leaders can have a meaningful impact through their influence and decision-making to promote DE&I in their teams and propel progress towards our ambitions. Lastly, the organization and its leaders should be accountable for sustaining progress in Sanofi’s DE&I efforts.

Chanta’ Stewart: So, first, by including them at the start, I’ve found that when you shove it down their throats versus including them in the process, it doesn’t really work that way. We are making sure that our employees are really included in the ideation and planning processes as much as possible. But then also making sure we’re garnering consistent feedback from them, whether it’s through an annual DE&I employee survey or kind of, post- and pre-event surveys for trainings and development opportunities that we have. Then also another way, we plan to do this is by exploring to bring more people into the fold, especially among groups where they self-identify as their employee resource groups so that we can have those insights and fold it through the business as well.

James Kinney: So actually, [Global CEO] Kim Johnson and I are working on something that I can’t announce just yet. But let’s just say that equity is something that we’re really continuing to lean into. We have an established track record when it comes to healthcare equity, but we believe in 2022, and beyond, that equity is the conversation to be having. And we look forward to leading that conversation throughout the marketplace.

Again, no specifics, no specifics as of yet. But the equity piece is something that we’ve clearly seen because of the disproportionate impact of the pandemic. For example, if you’re a working mother, during the pandemic, and you’re trying to be on Zoom, and you’ve got kids running around, it was a completely different experience. The disproportionate impact of COVID exposed everything, so when we look at equity from a health perspective, I don’t know if there’s anything more important.

Which programs are you most proud of at your organization?

Subarna Malakar: We are proud of the programs launched and in constant iteration to support achieving Sanofi’s US ambition of 50 percent women in senior leadership and 37 percent POC by 2025. Sanofi programs in place to support this aspiration and foster an inclusive culture include inclusive leadership training, Diverse Slate Policy requiring diverse candidates and interview panels, unconscious bias trainings, diversity, equity and inclusion councils, supplier diversity initiatives, strong partnerships with external organizations to insource the latest best practices, internships for underrepresented minorities, and mentorship of diverse talent.

Chanta’ Stewart: There are so many honestly, that made me proud and like really inspire me as they reflect our people-first inclusive culture. We have a program called EK Wellness. And they have really taken this year to focus on the mental health and well-being of our employees, which has been instrumental, you know, like, they’re really enduring that they have equitable access to resources and care needed during this challenging time. We have Meditation Mondays or a free subscription to the Calm app for the year, we’re really making sure that we’re taking a deeper look into the mental health of our employees and supporting them there. We had the opportunity to elevate the voices and experiences of our colleagues who are often under considered. I don’t want to say underrepresented because sometimes they’re not underrepresented. But under considered, which is really kind of brought us together and unified folks, it’s given us an opportunity for people to be able to tell their stories and their backgrounds themselves versus having someone tell it for them. I would say another one would be our internship program and that’s been geared towards individuals from underrepresented groups. And those would be the three that really stand out to me this year.

James Kinney: Besides the other programs I mentioned, there’s one more that I would love to bring up. At Ogilvy Health, we have something called “Careers and Coffee,” and where we basically remixed what the job fair is or the career fair is. The thinking behind it, it’s like we didn’t want to have you submit your resume, and go review, and come and pitch yourself in front of a bunch of strangers. Relationships are everything in life and in business. So Careers and Coffee is our opportunity just to post to the worldwide internet, “Come meet people from Ogilvy Health, and have a conversation with us and get to know us as people. “

And I’m super proud of that. Because number one, no college degree is required to attend the event. You can be in high school and attend the event, or still in college and attend the event – we had sophomores in college attending. So when you talk about a diverse pipeline of talent, we can start the conversation right there. We had people with 15 years of experience coming to the event as well.

And then we had a chance to feature some of our leaders in a way that they also got to, you know, let their hair down. And through the Careers and Coffee conversation, we talked about diversity. We talked about equity in healthcare, we talked about dream clients and dream causes that people want to work on. And then it’s really a two-way conversation too, because we got to hear from the now in the next generation about what matters to them. And then that intelligence informs us. So Careers and Coffee has been very successful with Ogilvy Health, as well opening up the aperture in the pipeline for talent, and specifically for diverse talent as well.

How do you think these programs can be improved?

James Kinney: With Careers and Coffee, I want it in the future to be like any other full-blown marketing program. We’re really thinking about the strategies for 2022, and how we blow them up. We do have relationships with colleges, and with universities, with trade schools, and more. But we want to open up the aperture and use paid advertising. Our KPI for that is, “Let’s get 1,000 people, if we can rival some of the top conferences in the country, with that format, that is more like edutainment, if you will, because it’s so casual.“ That’s where we want to go in improving the Careers and Coffees base. Maybe we can have some celebrity influencer-type people come on the call, like some top docs in the game, etc. To have them come on, and talk.

And then in terms of scaling that globally is something that we’re looking at. I mean, everyone has access to it now. But we’re doing it in the time zones that are within North America. We do record them all but I think the next step for that is to probably seed some talent from Europe and Asia, and then start to feed coaches and experts from different parts of the world. So that would be an improvement and or expansion.

And in terms of Mindful Manager, for Ogilvy Health, we won’t stop leaning into mental health. And now that we’ve finished the first four weeks of that program, everyone has access to the app moving forward. But there’s one part of it that I think is so important, and that is playing together as a team. So at the end of the week, it’s coming together and saying, “Hey, how was your week? How are you doing? “And those kind of mental health conversations will help us continue to make sure that it’s a part of Ogilvy Health’s DNA and not a program – because programs often have a start and end date, but culture is forever.

Subarna Malakar: These programs can be improved through maintaining a constant feedback loop with employees, the external environment, patients, customers, candidates and leaders and iterating in response to what is working well and where opportunities exist. For these programs to continue being successful, it is critical for our organization’s DE&I efforts to be agile in response to the volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity (VUCA) of the world around us, as well as the evolving needs of our communities, customers and the patients we serve.

Chanta’ Stewart: I think there’s room for improvement for everything that we do, absolutely. I often say it’s a marathon, not a sprint. So I really want to make sure that we’re taking the time and attention, the resources and the dollars, that are needed to do things right and meaningful versus quickly. And most times that comes off as performative. So making sure that we’re having that long-lasting change, leadership accountability – holding leaders accountable to this work is, again, not just the work of the DE&I team, or HR, it really is leadership as well. And making sure that we’re consistently providing those opportunities for education and awareness, it’s not a one-time thing, you don’t have your unbiased unconscious bias training, and that’s it. That’s something that needs to be consistently included in planning every single year – consistently evolving our protocols and systems that we have in place, as our workforce does expand. We do have a program, ‘Work Where You Work Best,’ so we are allowing our colleagues to work from anywhere in the world. So really making sure that we have systems in place for them to succeed and thrive. And then the data collection, continuing to collect that data and garner the feedback from our employees to really help and improve our efforts moving forward.