Diversity and Inclusion:
Good for Business

By: Celeste Warren, vice president of Human Resources of Merck’s Manufacturing Division / leader of Merck’s Global Diversity and Inclusion Center of Excellence

Merck careersIn corporate life, so many buzzwords get thrown around so quickly that it’s hard to keep track. There’s “synergy” and “scalable,” “best practice” and “leverage.” The list is endless.

And although the phrase “diversity and inclusion” can be lost in the maze of corporate jargon, I don’t think diversity and inclusion is a buzzword at all. Rather, I believe what diversity and inclusion stands for is essential to business success.

Here is how I define them as they relate to our current workforce:

Diversity: Making sure your workplace employs individuals with different backgrounds and perspectives.

Inclusion: Making sure all employees feel valued, respected and given access to the opportunities that help them grow in their careers and enable them to add value to our business. In many ways, it is about “bringing our whole selves to work.” We want to make sure every employee feels valued; that they never have to hide who they are.

I firmly believe that diversity and inclusion aren’t simply “nice” virtues for a company to have or boxes for us to check — they create success both in our bottom line as well as in fostering a happy, healthy, and invested workforce.

I see this in action every day. As the leader of Merck’s Global Diversity and Inclusion organization. I work with Merck’s leaders across the globe to ensure that diversity and inclusion is woven into the fabric of our business to create a competitive advantage for our company. Being the nation’s second largest pharmaceutical company (and the seventh largest worldwide), we know that having a diverse mindset is not just a nice aspiration — it’s a necessity.

Case in point: Our current workforce and marketplace are more diverse and global than at any point in our company’s 125-year history. Millennials are the most racially and ethnically diverse generation ever and are expected to make up half of the global workforce by 2020. This dynamic demands a very different Merck here and abroad — one that understands and can help address the needs of an increasingly diverse base of patients, customers, employees and suppliers.

Nowhere is this more important externally than in our clinical trials. Clinical trials are critically important research studies that test how well new medical approaches work in people; they are at the heart of the process for bringing new medicines to patients. But a large percentage of clinical trials, regardless of the disease, are composed of white males. The FDA recently noted that while African-Americans represent 12 percent of the total U.S. population, they make up only 5 percent of clinical trial participants. A large part of what I do is look for ways to help increase the minority participation in our trials. In a world of many ethnicities and cultures, it is important that these subjects reflect our population.

And although I’ve only been directing Merck’s diversity and inclusion organization for a little over a year, my goal is to make diversity and inclusion not just a part of our framework, but ingrained in our DNA in how our managers hire, promote and develop their employees. I want to get us to the point where we shape what happens not only in the pharmaceutical industry – but in all companies.

Basically, my dream for Merck is to get to the place where placing the weight of valuing global diversity and inclusion isn’t on one person’s shoulders, but in the minds and hearts of everyone.

I think it’s a great dream to have.