A snapshot of views and experiences in 2021, by Rachel Farrow, Director, PM Society and Diversity Interest Group Lead

In mid-2021 the PM Society Diversity & Inclusion Interest Group decided to explore the state of our industries regarding the state of our industry regarding experience of diversity and inclusion in both pharma and healthcare agency organisations. The development and running of a survey  was led by Hassan Choudhury and Rachel Farrow. The survey was publicised to the PM Society membership of pharma and agency organisations and respondents were self-selecting.

There were 122 responses (70% from agencies, 22% from pharma and the rest from other healthcare organisations including the NHS). 80% of respondents had over 5 years’ experience within their industry, with almost half having over 15 years’ experience; so it was a group with considerable experience working in their industry to draw on.

The survey made reference to the seven protected characteristics described in the Equality Act 2010 – age, disability, gender, pregnancy & maternity, ethnicity, religion or belief and sexual orientation. Over 63% of the participants identified with at least one of the protected characteristics.

The responses, while from a relatively small number of people, give us some topline information that we believe to be useful.

1. Over half of companies are working on improving diversity in their teams but there is still a marked difference between diversity at leadership level and diversity in the rest of the organization. However, there are many great initiatives and policies in place across our industry and much good practice that should be shared between us.

2. Approximately 60% of participants said they always feel empowered to speak up when they feel something is culturally inappropriate, a further 25% said they sometimes feel empowered to speak up. Sadly the remaining 15% do not feel empowered to speak up (and this increases to 30% of pharma respondents) even when they feel something is culturally inappropriate.

3. Over a third of participants said they have felt held back by something other than their skills, ability, knowledge, or experience, and this was more marked in pharma respondents than those working in agencies (48% compared to 28%). The lived experiences described included unconscious bias in interviews; not feeling listened to due to age or gender, and lack of progression in elitist, mainly white cultures where individuals didn’t feel they belonged.

So what do we conclude? Although this is just a small survey, it would appear an important one in terms of feedback. As organisations we need to be looking at what we are doing, not just to increase diversity in recruitment to our teams, but to ensure people feel a sense of belonging, that they are comfortable to speak out and that they are able to progress within the organisation right up to leadership level.

For full survey results click here…