It is easy to start heading down the road of racial politics as soon as someone mentions diversity in the workplace. The unfortunate reality is that racial politics has hurt the cause of diversity in America more than it has helped. But that does not change the fact that workplace diversity offers a broad range of benefits that are good for us all. This principle is clearly seen in the arena of biotech and pharmaceuticals.
At its core, diversity is about including people of both sexes and as many ethnic, cultural, social, and religious backgrounds as humanly possible. Think of it in terms of the melting pot principle. One of the things that have contributed to the greatness of America since our country’s founding is the fact that we have been a worldwide melting pot made up of people hailing from every corner of the globe. The workplace should be no different. The scientific community should be no different.
Diversity is all about taking advantage of the fact that people are different. Those differences are an important part of what makes for a successful biotech venture in the modern world. In light of that, there are three distinct benefits to diversity in biotech and pharmaceuticals that the industry should make a concerted effort to look at more closely:
- Diversity encourages specialization
- Diversity promotes strategic problem-solving
- Diversity accommodates for natural bias.
Diversity and Specialization
Diversity in any industry – be it healthcare, biotech, technology, or manufacturing – is the result of different people having different perspectives. And from those perspectives, people also develop their individual interests. Therefore, diversity within the STEM arena is one of the things that leads to specialization.
For example, a pharmaceutical researcher who grew up in South America may now be very concerned about Zika research and funding. A colleague whose family history includes ties to African countries like Liberia and Zaire may have a particular interest in working on the Ebola virus. The reality is that specialization tends to be the offspring of personal interest and experience.
Diversity and Strategic Problem Solving
In the problem-solving arena, pharma and biotech companies have a very definite need to look at problems from a variety of different angles. The whole premise of both industries is to discover and develop new ways to combat disease, and doing so requires a full investigation of every facet of the problem at hand. Diversity lends itself very well to this exercise.
People from different backgrounds view problems differently. Because of that, they look for solutions based on their own perspectives. A diverse workplace encourages strategic problem solving in a way that takes into account as many perspectives and viewpoints as possible. In turn, this creates the potential for finding the best possible solution for even the most complex problem.
Diversity and Natural Bias
Despite the fact that pharmaceuticals and biotech are science-based at their core, there is no escaping the fact that human beings have a natural tendency toward bias in everything we do. This natural bias is simply the result of individual perspective. The problem that arises in an environment where there is no diversity is one of allowing dominant biases to control decision-making.
Bias is not necessarily a bad thing from a scientific perspective. But in order for science to reach the right conclusions, every bias must be balanced with another. Diversification addresses that.
Pharmaceuticals and biotech most certainly benefit from diversity. The more diverse we can make the biotech community, the more successful we will be solving some of the biggest problems now before us.