Diversity and inclusion: the key to unlocking innovation’s true potential


AWIS | May 16, 2018

The AWIS article, “Diversity and inclusion: the key to unlocking innovation’s true potential,” was co-written by Russell Reynolds Associates Consultant Dana M. Krueger, Knowledge Consultant Lauren McCourt and Global Knowledge Leader Saule Serikova. The piece analyzed data from the firm's diversity study and provided insights into how the healthcare industry fares in unlocking the value-add of D&I. The article is excerpted below.

Almost every leading company today has defined a diversity and inclusion (D&I) strategy. Our “D&I Pulse”, proprietary research conducted in 2017 with more than 2,100 executives across the globe, reveals the main reasons why corporations are committing resources to D&I, and innovation plays a prominent role (see Figure 1): 



Unlocking the true potential of diversity within the innovation environment is a real game changer. In this article, we offer insights into how the healthcare industry fares with respect to the journey toward unlocking the value-add of D&I, particularly when it comes to leaders driving the (scientific and medical) innovation engine.  

Healthcare – key trends in D&I

Looking specifically at leading pharma organizations based in Europe and the US, there is evidence of increasing diversity in leadership teams over the last two years in some functions, but overall executive-level diversity remains a work in progress.

Specifically, 22% of executive team members in the top 35 companies are female – an increase of 4 percentage points over the last 2 years. However, only 13% are ethnic minorities, which is actually a slight decrease versus two years prior. Functionally, we observe the most female representation (as well as the biggest change over time) among corporate officers in HR, Legal, Finance, and other functional areas (33% in 2018 vs. 22% in 2016). Female executives are least represented among the CEO cadre (5%) but also similarly underrepresented among scientific leadership with only 6% of R&D leaders being women. In terms of ethnicity, minority groups have the most ExCo representation in the Commercial and Operations functions (both at 18%) and are least represented among CEOs and corporate officers (both at 8%) (see Figure 2).


Biotech firms have tended to slightly outperforms big pharma at the overall ExCo level in gender diversity. The real difference, however, becomes apparent when digging into the functional areas. Biotech has nearly twice the share of women CEOs than large pharma (9% vs. 5%) and nearly five times the level of female representation in the scientific function of R&D (29% vs. 6%) (see Figure 3).


To read the full article, click here. 

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Diversity and inclusion: the key to unlocking innovation’s true potential