Celeste Warren,
vice president of Human Resources and chief diversity officer, Merck

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 are 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 lengthy history. The most racially and ethnically diverse generation ever has entered the workforce and is 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 has noted that while African-Americans represent 12 percent of the total U.S. population, they make up only 5 percent of clinical trial participants. At Merck, we are inspired by a shared mission to save and improve lives. 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.

The goal I set when I came into this role several years ago remains the same: 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. We are making progress, but 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.

Other Merck outreach:

  • The CEO Action for Diversity & Inclusion is the largest CEO-driven business commitment to advance diversity and inclusion within the workplace. In June 2017, we joined more than 150 major companies in signing a pledge to reach diversity goals.
  • Merck was also recently inducted into the Billion Dollar Roundtable, which recognizes and celebrates corporations who spend at least $1 billion with diverse suppliers.