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How can you navigate ED&I challenges in your life sciences company?

The European life sciences sector is experiencing dynamic growth.

€21bn of venture capital (VC) funding has been raised by Europe’s life sciences companies over the last five years, representing an annual growth of 16%.

A number of factors have influenced this growth – ageing demographics, personalised medicine, the pandemic, additional R&D funding – and continue to influence the trajectory of European life sciences.


However, a key challenge facing life sciences companies is equality, diversity, and inclusion (ED&I).

How can you navigate ED&I challenges in your life sciences company?


What is the current diversity outlook in life sciences?

It would be difficult to discuss how you can navigate ED&I challenges without first acknowledging the context of ED&I in the industry.

Though progress has been slow, Grant Thorton’s Women in Business 2022 report has indicated that life sciences companies are taking more deliberate, necessary action to create more inclusive practices for female talent.

Part of this is due to talent scarcity – more than half of all firms surveyed in the report expressed concern about their ability to recruit in the next year.

In healthcare, there is the highest proportion of women in senior management out of the 15 industries surveyed… but what about other areas of diversity?

According to the Science Industry Partnership, 47% of life sciences businesses cite a lack of individuals from ethnic minority backgrounds in senior positions as a key concern, alongside a lack of women in senior positions.

This indicates that, though change has been positive in certain areas of life sciences, there is still a sense that more needs to be done by life sciences companies.

Diversity is significant to candidates also, with 67% of job searchers considering diversity to be an important factor when considering a new employment opportunity. 


Look at the data

It’s important to first assess the existing hiring data. You have to ascertain how to move forward and put in place a plan to face ED&I challenges.

You should focus on looking at the demographics of people who are:

  • Applying for roles

  • Progressing through the recruitment process

  • Being offered roles 

  • Accepting roles

  • Currently in senior or leadership roles

  • Leaving the company

It is likely that you’ll find some patterns in the data that you can focus on.

For example, is there a higher percentage of specific demographics leaving roles? Or is there a specific demographic that applies for certain roles but isn’t accepted?

This is the foundation for your ED&I strategy because it helps you to assess the key issues in your current approach to work from.


Consider your goals and objectives

To better overcome ED&I challenges, you need to achieve organisation-wide buy-in, which requires you to assess your goals and objectives.

This is the best way to keep your organisation accountable for its actions and allow you the opportunity to measure the progress of your ED&I strategy.

Your goals should be:

  • Clear and not broad (e.g. ‘increase applicant diversity’ isn’t a clear goal)

  • Measurable and with a timeline (e.g. ‘review all job descriptions and revise with ED&I strategy approach by 15th June 2023’)

  • Evaluated and adjusted, even if performance doesn’t meet the goal in the expected timeframe

  • Flexible (e.g. are there ways to hit your goals that you hadn’t easily anticipated, such as removing rigid academic requirements and replacing them with more experience-based requirements?)

Remember that although inclusion and equality aren’t as measurable as diversity, they can still be implemented into goals and efforts through managerial practices, such as coaching and performance evaluations.


Raise awareness 

If you’re going to make an effort with your approach to ED&I, you need to convey your efforts to everyone within your organisation for accountability purposes, and to involve each person within your organisation in the process.

Many life sciences companies will find ED&I training programmes to be the best option, as they can be easily incorporated into a strategy.

Primarily, the aims for raising awareness are to:

  • Create a more positive, inclusive workplace environment

  • Be more aware of unconscious bias

  • Improve people’s understanding of the importance behind the language they use

  • Promote inclusivity as part of workplace culture

Whether you opt for external training or in-house training and workshops around ED&I, the important thing to keep in mind is that employees should have an understanding of which goals your organisation is prioritising and how they can contribute to them.


Assess and improve

As with any strategy, the job isn’t done once it’s written up and committed to – your life sciences ED&I strategy needs to be continually assessed and improved.

If you aren’t seeing how your strategy is impacting your organisation, you’ll never be able to improve and adapt.

This is best done by conducting focus groups and assessments to best assess the effectiveness of the current approach, particularly to get employee feedback on what is working best and what can be improved.

Additionally, making sure to refer back to data to spot improvements or deviations from goals is essential to stay on the right track.


It’s time to improve your organisation’s growth

If you have any questions about ED&I strategies and how they can contribute to your organisation’s growth, or if you’re simply looking to find out more about our talent services, get in touch with the Panda team today.