HOW PFIZER IS LEADING THE WAY TO CREATE A MORE DIVERSE, EQUITABLE AND INCLUSIVE WORKPLACE
Only 35% of corporate America’s senior managers and 24% of its C-suite leaders are women, while women of color account for just
4% of C-suite leaders and 9% of senior managers. These figures
suggest that advancing diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) in the workplace will require companies to put more energy into the
initiative than they have up to now. Pfizer, a 2021 Forbes “Best
Employers for Women” list honoree, offers one model for how companies can move forward. Here’s how the pharmaceutical company made equity one of its core values.
INITIATIVES THAT CAN CHANGE LIVES
“Our DEI efforts have to be bold, just like our purpose is. They’re
aimed at changing the lives of our people,” says Payal Sahni
Becher, executive vice president and chief human resources officer at Pfizer. Those efforts, she says, won’t only give each employee a voice and ensure that Pfizer “look[s] like the population and patients” it serves: They’ll also help drive innovation by harnessing
the creativity of a wider range of talent.
Pfizer’s DEI programs eschew an incremental approach in favor of precisely those bold efforts that Becher is calling for. The company, for example, in 2019 adopted metrics-driven
opportunity parity goals that ensure fairness in promotions and
horizontal movement across demographic groups, with the goal of increasing female and Black, Indigenous, Latino/Hispanic, People of Color representation in leadership roles by 2025.
Its Breakthrough Fellowship Program, a nine-year commitment designed to increase Black, Indigenous, Latino/Hispanic, People
of Color representation at the company, launched this year with
a group of 19 rising undergraduate fellows who participated in a 10-week summer internship at the company. Fellows are eligible for two years of full-time employment at Pfizer after they graduate from
college. After that two-year period, the company will also pay for
them to complete a full-time two-year MBA, MPH or MS statistics degree program and offer them a summer internship between the first and second years of that program. Finally, fellows can return to Pfizer for a permanent position upon the program’s completion.
Pfizer aims to develop 100 fellows by 2025.
‘A COMPANY THAT PUT ME FIRST’
“This is not just lofty goals without metrics,” Becher says. “We have very clear metrics that we’re measuring ourselves against.” Pfizer, she says, wants “to move the needle, and we want to move it big.”
By 2025, Pfizer aims to achieve a global workforce with 47% women at the VP level and above, increase Black, Indigenous, Latino/Hispanic, People of Color representation in leadership roles to 32% and double the population of Black and Latino/ Hispanic employees within its U.S. workforce. Pfizer has already made significant strides in many of these areas. As of December 2020, the company had increased Black, Indigenous, Latino/
Hispanic, People of Color and female representation at the VP
level and above by 2.5% and 5.1% since 2019, respectively. Women now make up a third of Pfizer’s executive leadership
“We have more women in leadership now than we ever have, and not just in our C-suite but at all of our leadership levels,” Becher says.
Becher, whose family came to the U.S. as refugees from Afghanistan, understands firsthand the value of DEI initiatives. She joined Pfizer in 1997 through an internship program before being offered a full-time role. The company paid for her final year of graduate school, which Becher says was life-changing
for her family.
“What I experienced was a company that put me first,”
She says the support, encouragement and guidance she’s
received from allies of all backgrounds and from female mentors at Pfizer have helped her flourish at the company, and Pfizer is
now nurturing a new generation of talented, diverse leaders.
“[We we’re…the want to] voice make of change sure and that we’re keeping our values front and center. When we say equity, we mean it. We want to make sure that we look exactly like what we’re standing for.”
PAYAL SAHNI BECHER Executive Vice President and Chief Human Resources Officer, Pfizer