How to cite:
Naidoo, A (2022), ‘Diversity in Action’, Faculty of Pharmaceutical Medicine, 20 May 2022. Available at: https://www.fpm.org.uk/blog/diversity-in-action-a-blog-article-by-dr-ansuya-naidoo/
A diverse workforce does not always mean that all members feel equally valued and involved in the organisation. Many organisations across the world have workforces that reflect international, ethnic, and other kinds of diversity. However, it takes a special type of culture to encourage, embrace and truly value diversity.
From my experience, true diversity results from a synergistic combination of the following, on which I will expand: Understanding and valuing contributions based on the individual, Listening, and Creating room for individuals to thrive. I will be discussing my personal experience working in the pharmaceutical industry, and at an international NGO.
I currently work for IAVI (International AIDS Vaccine Initiative). IAVI is a non-profit scientific research organization that develops vaccines and antibodies for HIV, tuberculosis, emerging infectious diseases (including COVID-19), and neglected diseases.
Understanding and valuing contributions based on the individual
International organisations sometimes fall prey to the low-income/high-income country divide or Global North South hierarchy within the organisation – what this could mean is that opinions and input from teams from developing countries for example, hold less weight than those from developed countries. Refreshingly, in my time at IAVI, I have found that this is not the case. Opinions and contributions are welcome and based on the individual’s role and expertise. In many cases, the people who are most experienced are those engaged and listened to.
Truly listening to people is key to ensuring inclusion. In a previous employment experience, I was astounded to find that if you did not agree with the company/managerial rhetoric and opinion, you were completely blocked out, and had no way to make your voice heard. This was a little scary, and as a junior team member at the time, I felt I had no other option. Following this experience, in a discussion with FPM, it was put into perspective for me, and I was shown that there are alternatives and support available through the organisation. I think this is important for our members to be aware of – FPM is our resource and can be a support in times when you feel actively marginalised or discriminated against.
Thriving in a diverse workforce
IAVI has a very diverse workforce, teams spread across the world, different ethnic backgrounds, varied languages and experiences. It is a truly enriching experience for me to work with teams that are so diverse, and it is something I really enjoy. It is also a privilege that members work in the office, remotely, and in the field- this model was a part of the organisation pre-pandemic, with more remote working during the pandemic. A small, but significant working practice is to inform the whole organisation when a specific country has a National Holiday, that is of significance to them, for example Freedom Day in South Africa to commemorate the first democratic elections in SA – this educates the other team members on the reason for the holiday. These small demonstrations of inclusion and the appreciation of diversity are meaningful to the individuals within the organisation.
The ideas and ideals of Equality, Diversity and Inclusion are ones that many organisations are trying to embrace. Policies are written, working groups created and meetings held. All of these are steps forward; however it is the company culture (or a change in culture if needed!) that allows these concepts to be truly embraced.