Earlier this month, we brought you the first of two interviews with Wema Hoover, the new Head of Diversity and Inclusion at Sanofi US who joined us in July. In this edition, Wema shares her thoughts on the importance of diversity, what it takes to create a diverse and inclusive workplace and the challenges and opportunities that diversity brings.
Why is diversity in the workplace so important?
Let me lead off by saying that diversity and inclusion is no longer a nice-to-have. It’s absolutely critical for success especially for multinational companies like Sanofi. Our patients and customers come from different backgrounds, experiences, ages, environments, socio-economic classes. We need our own diverse insights so we can understand the best way to serve them. Think about it… without diversity, everyone comes from the same mold, and you end up with group think. The result is that the company doesn’t have the freshness that leads to different views that can make us more innovative and competitive.
What would you say are the most important elements for creating a diverse and inclusive environment?
There are a few. For one, you need support from the top. Senior leaders’ engagement and advocacy is critical. They are the ones setting the tone and behaviors. It’s also very important to take a very integrated approach to D&I. It shouldn’t be a standalone. D&I should be woven into everything we do – how we run our HR practices, how we manage talent and the organizational culture we create.
What are some of the key challenges when it comes to D&I?
A lot has to do with controlling the noise from the outside and by that I mean society. Let’s face it – our people come from society. They may have sentiments and feelings on both sides of an issue… which is fine. But there needs to be an understanding and a collective agreement around the behaviors the company sees as most effective and what we want to promote and encourage and expect all employees to abide by. Another challenge is that as organizations go through changes and transformation, sometimes D&I takes a back seat and that creates gaps you don’t’ realize until much later.
What’s your early impression of D&I at Sanofi US?
Sanofi has diversity at its core. When you bring together the global reach and impact of our medicines and the talents of our colleagues with their different backgrounds, experiences and approaches, you form an incredibly diverse workplace – a workplace where inclusive behaviors help us to connect, engage and innovate. It’s important that we continually recognize just how much these assets enable us to be successful and win in the marketplace.
Like any company, we must work at sharpening our tools in D&I. I’d like to see us do more to seek and leverage the insights and perspectives of our employees. It’s also important that we develop strategies to connect with our patients and customers in culturally relevant ways. And last, but not least, we must demonstrate and promote inclusive behaviors that embody the mission and values of Sanofi.