As the diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) movement continues, organizations are regularly revisiting various business processes to move the needle on their DEI goals. One biotech company demonstrates the commitment and effort it takes to effectively achieve DEI goals.

American biotech company Genentech had gender representation issues in upper management roles within the company and was determined to correct the issue. The firm recently shared its journey for achieving DEI change within its workplace in an article in the Harvard Business Review. In achieving its goals, Genentech attributes its success to four major findings.

Data plays a critical role in DEI goal success

It should come as no surprise that data plays a significant role in achieving and sustaining DEI goals. Genentech leveraged external data from a report conducted by the Healthcare Businesswomen’s Association (HBA) to help it set up its own internal data process. The report outlined “best practices for recruiting, advancing, and retaining women'' in biotech organizations. In referencing HBA's model, Genentech was able to conduct its own internal research, effectively allowing it to identify blockers to women’s success and advancement.

Author of the post and Senior Vice President/Chief People and Culture Officer at Genentech, Cynthia Burks says, “We applied the same rigor and analysis we use in scientific research to this process, collecting subjective data (through surveys and focus groups) and objective data (by looking at factors such as the differences among the number of women who applied and were invited to interview for open roles and the number of those women who received and accepted offers).”

Reviewing its workforce data from this newfound perspective helped the company restructure its talent, recruiting, and interview processes. By analyzing internal and external data, Genentech addressed its gender representation issue at the source.  The company then proceeded to implement a new hiring and promotion system that accounts for DEI from the get-go and prevents diversity and inclusion problems from happening.

Accountability is key

As Genentech continued to assess its gender representation issue, it began sharing its progress with more stakeholders. “We originally only provided an annual progress update to the board of directors,” the company said, adding “but we began sharing the data with our employees in 2019.” Fast forward to 2021. The company took its transparency efforts a step further by publishing its Inaugural Diversity & Inclusion Report. This step allowed greater visibility into the company's progress, and to a larger audience. As we’ve recently seen with McDonald’s, transparency is key for achieving DEI goals.

Every little bit makes a difference

Assessing sensitive issues relating to DEI can be difficult to manage. The process is best compared to a marathon rather than a sprint. Chipping away at goals, initiatives, and processes makes a big impact over time. Genentech attributes small tasks recurring as a major contributor to overall DEI success, saying that leaders throughout the company were responsible for reinforcing the company’s commitment to DEI goals at town hall gatherings, department meetings, and one-on-ones. Burks says, “Repetition bred retention, and retention bred habit.”

Progress requires ongoing measurement

To quote the HBR article, “if you can’t prove it, it didn’t happen,” and no truer words could be said. As recent commentary reinforces, empty words regarding commitments to DEI are not enough and companies need to disclose legitimate progress, backed by data and reporting to demonstrate to stakeholders, including investors and employees, that their efforts are legitimate.

The biotech firm’s final lesson includes a visual data set that clearly outlines that it has increased the number of women in senior leadership positions by 50%.

The company's lessons are consistent with much of the research regarding organizational DEI success. The Josh Bersin Academy, for instance, identifies five major strategies for moving the needle on DEI, including a commitment from the top-down, accountability, leveraging data, and transparency.

Genentech began its DEI overhaul in 2007 and to this day, is still tweaking its processes to better harbor a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive workforce. The process didn’t happen overnight, rather, it took continued commitment and determination from the entire company to make progress. As Burks says, “Weaving the message about the importance of gender diversity into the fabric of our corporate narrative was one small step that made a big difference.”

Genentech's journey to achieving DEI is one we can all learn from and while their progress is substantial, it’s never really finished. Employers must actively work towards achieving and sustaining DEI goals.

Organizations looking to strengthen their DEI efforts should download our white paper, Designing a Pay Equity Policy for Your Organization.