According to research from Bristol Myers Squibb (BMS), Black people count for about 12% of the US adult population, but just 7% of the pharma workforce and a mere 3% of executive teams. To help bring about a more representative, equitable pharma workforce, the company has joined with five historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) on special educational and recruitment programs.
The Tomorrow’s Innovators program is aimed toward both enhancing the recruitment and retention of diverse pharma industry talent and improving the student educational experience at participating HBCUs. The five schools signed on are Florida A&M University, Howard University, Morgan State University, North Carolina A&T University, and the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff.
Chris Boerner, executive vice president and chief commercialization officer with BMS, said the company believes achieving a diverse workforce that reflects the patient communities it serves is a necessity.
“While there is still more to do in addressing racial and societal equity, programs like Tomorrow’s Innovators provide a critical opportunity to reach diverse talent sooner and cultivate a richer talent pipeline within our industry,” Boerner commented. “When diversity is celebrated and inclusion is intentional, everyone benefits, especially our patients.”
According to BMS, the initiative is an extension of the health equity, diversity, and inclusion commitments the company announced last year, which include the goal of increasing the diversity of the company’s own workforce. The company is striving to double executive representation of Black and Hispanic/Latino employees among its US staff and to achieve gender parity at the executive level globally, by the end of 2022.
Tomorrow’s Innovators reportedly will seek to reach diverse talent earlier in their college careers, and provide them the education and support required for reaching their pharma career goals. The aims of the program include:
- Designing and hosting career-focused workshops for diverse talent
- Coming up with a two-way exchange program with commercial leaders and faculty members, in order to facilitate knowledge sharing, collaboration, and research development opportunities
- Creating custom curricula to further prepare students for internships and career opportunities within the historically underrepresented sector.
“The Tomorrow’s Innovators strategic alliance presents a meaningful opportunity to build the talent pipeline that will not only address the lack of representation in the biopharma industry but also equip the industry to meet the challenges of the future,” said Danielle Winchester, associate dean with the Willie A. Deese College of Business and Economics at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University. “It offers another avenue for the Willie A. Deese College of Business and Economics at North Carolina A&T to develop talented executive leaders who contribute to the global economy.”
“This alliance with Bristol Myers Squibb is a natural area of collaboration for FAMU, given our College of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, Institute of Public Health,” said Larry Robinson, president of Florida A&M University. “We are eager to explore opportunities for faculty research and career development for our students. FAMU and other HBCUs can be a tremendous source of talent for the biopharma industry when utilized in this manner; this alliance provides a framework for sustained progress.”
The partnership comes about a month after Novartis announced a 10-year initiative to fund and develop solutions to improve equity in life sciences. That program involves Novartis and the Novartis US Foundation partnering with 26 US HBCUs to address racial disparities in health, research, and education.