Diversity in Pharma OpEd by John Mack

Fard Johnmar, founder of Envision Solutions and blogger over at healthcareVOX, recently posted a commentary on his blog entitled “On Nooses, Watson, Racism & Why Actions Speak Louder Than Words.

“…it is human nature to distrust ‘The Other,’ no matter our color or creed,” said Fard. “In fact, this tendency is so strong that some will marshal any number of facts and figures to buttress their beliefs about why they are superior to another person. Given this, racism will never go away.”

Fard characterized his comments as being “Off Topic,” but it made me think about the on topic issue of racism within the pharmaceutical industry, especially after I read a recent Indy Star story reporting that “dozens of current and former workers at Eli Lilly and Co. are stepping forward to accuse the Indianapolis drug maker of racial discrimination, adding heft to an ongoing lawsuit that paints the company as hostile to black employees.”

I also read some unkind comments about Deirdre Connelly-Lilly USA president-on Cafe Pharma after she criticized sales reps who post to that online forum.

The discussion quickly turned to Lilly’s diversity program, which received this criticism from an anonymous poster:

“As a long term employee, it absolutely kills me to see what diversity has done to Lilly. Over the last 10 years or so, the increase in diversity (read blacks and females – not thought) has been inversely proportional to the effectiveness of the company. It looks like it will only get worse with the quotas we have at every level of the company.”

Racism will not go away and there’s no way that we can win an argument for or against “diveristy” programs that include quotas.

Connelly may have benefited from Lilly’s program, but instead of dissing reps who post problems on Cafe Pharma, Connelly should study the criticisms and use her own story to counteract them. And I don’t mean the story presented in her resume.

I’d like to know the details of how a person of color becomes a success in the pharmaceutical industry. Connelly, who is from Puerto Rico, came from a large professional family that seemed to have enough money to send her and a few other children to colleges in the States. I’m sure her’s is not the typical Latina story.

Still, I am sure it takes more than family connections and money for minorities to make it in the pharmaceutical and other industries. Fard, for example, “grew up going to a school system in a predominantly African American neighborhood. We were not rich. In fact, some of my neighbors were very, very poor and engaged in activities that were far from admirable.”

What helped Fard, aside from his intelligence and other personal strengths, seemed to be teachers who educated him about the African Americans who helped build America.

Fard cited a few names of African Americans who made unheralded contributions to our society and who were role models for him.

What I want to know is, who and where are these role models in the pharmaceutical industry? I know they are there!

Women pharmaceutical executives have the Healthcare Businesswomen’s Association but where is the Black Pharma Businessperson Association?

I think it would be a great idea to seek out professionals “of color” in the pharmaceutical industry and have them tell their stories. A good place to publish these stories are on blogs-either corporate blogs such as JNJ BTW or other blogs willing to host the stories. I’d be glad to do this over at Pharma Marketing Blog.

Issue: Vol. 6, No. 10: November/December 2007

Word Count: n/a

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