Post-DEI event: Discussions and takeaways

Last Thursday, Oregon Bio culled together about 100 industry pros for a Diversity Dialogue around equity and inclusion. Participants from a broad range of multi-cultural backgrounds and experiences engaged with panelists Emmanuel Akporiaye, Ph.D., founder of Veana Therapeutics; Ndongo “Don” Khouma, principal validation engineer at Genentech; and Nate Miles, vice president of Strategic Initiatives, State Government Affairs at Eli Lilly & Company. Soundharya Nagasubramanian, director of R&D in Product Information Security at Hillrom (which acquired Welch Allyn) moderated the discussion.

Our Diversity Dialogue sought to forge crucial conversations and commit to key actions to grow diversity in the ranks of bioscience and medtech company owners, leaders, workers, researchers, supply chain managers, academics and health providers. This timely event aimed to launch Oregon’s bioscience sector to do better and be better with implementing actions that further diversity, equity and inclusion  – specifically looking at worker recruitment, access to educational opportunities and workplace readiness. We will continue this DEI work with conversations at our upcoming virtual annual conference series in late 2020 and beyond.

Attendees participated in the interactive dialogue and were asked, “What can I do as an ally to show up for disadvantaged or marginalized groups  when it comes to healthcare equity or general diversity equity and inclusion?” They shared:

    • Taking time to make sure that I am active and intentional in every aspect of my life. Buying from Black owned businesses, reading Black authors, standing up for Black colleagues and including their voices.  Be intentional and inclusive.
    • Outreach with intention.  Recruiting intentionally.  Get more people involved.
    • Intent is vitally important. Improving percentages starts with the candidate pipeline.  Don’t start the process until we have a diverse slate. Push back on the process.
    • Create space, step aside so others can move up in the organization. Some people have to move over so others can move up.
    • Not only create space, but bring others along with you.  Evaluate and then build your network.  Who do you reach out to; who is in your inner circle?  Broaden that circle, and bring others with you on the next big thing.
    • Help to create a greater number of underrepresented and diverse entrepreneurs – it’s about mentoring and finding diverse mentors. Find ways in the community to help build those networks and support.
    • Get a better sense of what the diversity landscape currently looks like in Oregon research institutions. Is there a more centralized organization or resources that can evaluate that population?

“Diversity, inclusion and belonging are an important part of all communities,” said Nagasubramian who hails from India. “These cultural characteristics are uniquely important to the bio community as we focus on scientific solutions that sustain, restore, and improve the quality of life for humans.”

“The advancement of scientific knowledge has historically been affected by systemic bias, but we at Oregon Bio strive to change the narrative,” said Liisa Bozinovic, executive director of the Oregon Bioscience Association. “The bioscience and medtech sectors have key roles to play in improving the diversity, equity and inclusion conversation.”

“This pandemic has brought to light racial and ethnic disparities as determining factors of community health, and minority communities are increasingly suffering as a result,” added Bozinovic. “Although we are employing a growing number of minorities, we must come together to address disparity however we can.”

Oregon Bio has created a new Diversity, Equity and Inclusion page on its Web site, complete with our statement of commitment to DEI and Black Lives Matter around #BeTheChange. You can find it here.

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