How We Can Work Together to ‘Accelerate Equity for All’ — Lessons Learned During Pfizer’s DEI Summit

Sponsored by Pfizer

The 2023 Pfizer Global DEI Summit. Photo courtesy of Pfizer.

The 2023 Pfizer Global DEI Summit. Photo courtesy of Pfizer.

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This article is inspired by a story published on the Pfizer blog on October 17, 2023.

Diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) matter. In fact, according to a Pew Research survey from earlier this year, a majority of U.S. workers believe that focusing on DEI at work is a good thing. It’s no wonder then that major companies like Pfizer are not only making DEI a priority — but are also innovating in this space. 

One way Pfizer is doing this is through events like the 2023 Pfizer Global DEI Summit, which was hosted by Pfizer’s Chief Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Officer, Ramcess Jean-Louis, in September. This year’s iteration of the annual event convened over 7,000 Pfizer colleagues and external DEI experts. The Summit’s goal? To discuss how to disrupt the status quo, accelerate equity, and to examine Pfizer’s DEI progress over the past year. Here are a few of the key DEI takeaways from the Summit:

Currently, the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) shows that racial disparities contribute to about $500 billion in stunted economic growth, noted Adolfo Cuevas, Assistant Professor, Dept of Social and Behavioral Sciences at NYU’s School of Global Public Health; Core Faculty at the Center for Anti-Racism, Social Justice, & Public Health. “We, as a society, cannot sustain that level of inequity,” continued Cuevas. “Knowledge is important, good data’s important, but action should take precedence at this point.”

Action was a key theme in this year’s event. As Rutgers University English professor and spoken word artist Alyea Pierce said, “we must remember the urgency of this particular moment in time… What is the cost of inaction?” Jay Brown, Chief of Staff of the Human Rights Campaign, also spoke about the importance of taking action and speaking out. “One of the things that’s really holding us back… is silence,” said Brown. “Business has a voice and an ability to shape the future we want to live in.”

So, how can we take action toward DEI goals and accelerate progress in these all-important areas?

Well, companies can partner with organizations such as Disability:IN to take part in the  Disability Equality Index survey, which measures companies’ progress toward disability inclusion and identifies best practices and how companies can learn from one another. “This past year, we had 485 companies take the Disability Equality Index,” Russell Shaffer, Executive VP, Strategy and Programs for Disability:IN shared. “We have learned a lot from companies across 30 different industry sectors,”

Hiring Our Heroes is another important organization that helps place military members in their last six months of active duty into Corporate Fellowship programs. These programs assist in combating biases against the military community’s readiness or qualifications for civilian work and have helped more than 900,000 community members find employment. And, according to Elizabeth O’Brien, Executive Director, U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation & Hiring Our Heroes, the Corporate Fellowship programs are the “most disruptive and innovative program that we’ve launched in recent years.”

In addition to external partnerships, companies will also find it imperative to focus on internal programs. As an example of this work, Pfizer employees also highlighted how they are making progress toward DEI goals during the Summit. 

How Pfizer is prioritizing DEI action.

One DEI leader at Pfizer is Kara King, who is the Rocky Mount, NC sterile manufacturing facility site leader. After the site needed to be rebuilt after a tornado, King focused on creating a strong colleague culture by casting a wide net for talent in recruiting, development, and engagement. This work has substantially reduced attrition all while increasing diversity at all levels to better represent the local and patient population.

Colleague resource groups (CRGs) are another example of how Pfizer is prioritizing DEI. At Pfizer, CRGs are groups that are open to all and help drive inclusion and professional development. Through participation in CRGs, Pfizer colleagues collaborate to foster awareness, respect, and inclusion within the workplace. At the Summit, Aamir Malik, Pfizer’s Chief Business Innovation Officer, shared how he led by example when signing on as the executive sponsor of Pfizer’s newly formed Middle East and North African Resource Alliance (MENARA) CRG. As the group’s advocate, Malik is committed to elevating the voices of colleagues and helping them expand their networks and build allyship.

Melissa Bishop-Murphy, Pfizer’s Senior Director of National Government Relations and Multicultural Affairs, shared another way Pfizer is prioritizing DEI: the Pfizer Multicultural Health Collective. The Collective’s goal is to close gaps in care that affect historically disregarded communities by addressing drivers of inequitable health outcomes, including systemic racism.

And this isn’t all! DEI department leads, opportunity parity, tracking their progress, having a diverse global supply chain, equitable pay, ESG goals, and more are other ways that Pfizer champions diversity, equity, and inclusion every single day, all around the world.

As the Summit ended, Pfizer’s DEI lead, Ramcess Jean-Louis, left attendees with one final call to action. “We must challenge what’s possible, disrupt the status quo, and take action,” encouraged Jean-Louis. “Let’s continue to work together and accelerate equity for all.”



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