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Inclusive Cultures and Innovative Outputs



EPC: What does more diversity and inclusion in the pharmaceutical industry mean, and what does that look like?

Stephen and Nick: Diversity and inclusion (D&I) are critical imperatives in the world of pharma, particularly when we think about equity in health outcomes and the ways COVID-19 has highlighted the fault lines, such as disproportionately negative health outcomes for minority groups. Diversity is high on the pharma agenda; however, we need to progress to more inclusion. The future of medication is increasing individualisation – without realising the diversity of people/patients, pharma companies will not be able to provide future medication. Without being inclusive, pharma will not be able to provide treatment and medication for all the different groups of people that need them. According to one D&I professional, there are still “glaring examples of people preferring to hire or promote those similar to their background”.

Pharma is certainly diverse, in terms of nationality and culture at least, but it could be more inclusive. Part of its problem is insularity concerning hiring practices and an over-confidence in its own abilities. Compared with any other major industry, the level of gender diversity in senior positions is low. When Reshma Kewalramani was appointed as Chief Executive of Vertex Pharmaceuticals, she became one of just two female CEOs in the top 25 pharma companies worldwide. Of the top 35 we have worked with, Emma Walmsley at GSK, Marie France Tschudin at Novartis, and Heather Bresch, previously at Mylan, stand out, joining Reshma as the only four female leaders.

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About the Authors

Stephen Frost is the founder of global diversity and inclusion consultancy Included and co-author of new book Building An Inclusive Organisation, published by Kogan Page.


Nick Basannavar is the Head of Impact at Included. He supports organisations by reframing inclusion and embedding inclusive thinking into its work. In partnership with public sphere, corporate, and third-sector bodies around the world, he helps to create and capture meaningful, positive, and lasting impact. He tells these stories in Included’s ground-breaking annual inclusive Impact Report. Previously a senior manager at global consultancy firm Deloitte, Nick is also a historian and holds a PhD from the University of London. His primary focus is cultural and social change in Britain and his first book is due to be published in 2021.
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