How Pfizer’s Ramcess Jean-Louis Champions an Inclusive Culture

Ramcess Jean-Louis, Pfizer’s Chief Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DEI) Officer, is not short on ambition. Having joined the world’s largest pharmaceutical company, he is now out to raise the bar for human resources leadership across the organization. In an interview with The HR Digest, Ram explains the crucial importance of DE&I in the workplace.

Ramcess Jean-Loiuis DEI

The HR Digest: What is diversity to you?  

As the son of Haitian immigrants, I think of diversity as a way we can celebrate the differences across demographics, identities, cultural backgrounds, experiences, perspectives, ideas, disability, LGBTQ, Veteran status, ethnicity, race, religion, gender, and socioeconomic background.  

To me, diversity is the visible and invisible differences that make each person unique, including demographics, identities, experiences, and ideas. To embrace diversity is to honor each human being for his/her true and authentic self.  At Pfizer, we want to make sure that everyone has an opportunity to express themselves and bring their authentic selves into the workplace.   

The HR Digest: Under your leadership, Pfizer continues to make great strides in the field of diversity and inclusion (D&I). In these past few years, you also implemented several strategic initiatives to build a company that helps people from all walks of life accelerate in the workplace. How do you measure the value these programs bring to the company?  

We approach DEI with the same Pfizer discipline applied to everything else we do – what gets measured, gets improved. Pfizer’s DEI Strategy is built around tangible efforts that can be measured against three key stakeholder pillars. 

Pillar 1: Build A More Inclusive Colleague Experience focuses on improving diversity and fostering belonging for all colleagues across the talent lifecycle, from potential recruits and part-time employees to full-time colleagues and contractors. 

Pillar 2: Advance Equitable Health Outcomes focuses on current and future patients, as well as those who impact and influence their lives and healthcare decisions. We aim to conduct inclusive research by ensuring our R&D activities, including disease priorities and clinical trials, reflect the diversity of the communities we serve. We believe that we can help improve health outcomes by preventing, identifying, treating, and/or mitigating disease drivers that disproportionately impact underserved populations. Our goal is to remove barriers to access by increasing access and affordability for patients in historically underserved communities.

Pillar 3: Transform Society with External DEI Partnerships focuses on partners and suppliers we work with, as well as the broad set of stakeholders we engage with to impact society. We believe that working with diverse suppliers will empower underrepresented communities through opportunity and education. We aim to contribute towards a more equitable society by partnering to deploy capital, colleague volunteer hours, and know-how to amplify equity initiatives and help make the world a more equitable place.

The HR Digest: What are the biggest challenges executives supporting pay equity for women and minorities currently face?  

Pay equity is critically important to establish basic fairness, trust, and empowerment in the organization. At Pfizer, we are diligent in reviewing and ensuring that pay equity is the norm for all our employees. We believe parity in pay and opportunity is critical to achieving our purpose: Breakthroughs that change patients’ lives.

Based on a 2019 analysis, Pfizer pays female employees globally at greater than 99% (99.3%) of what it pays male employees. Regarding minority versus non-minority pay in the United States, minorities are at almost dollar for-dollar parity (99.8%) with the pay of non-minorities.

Growing, engaging, and retaining talent is a never-ending task. At Pfizer, we are committed to continue working with external stakeholders, as well as our company leaders to ensure that we are constantly accelerating our efforts.

To measure our progress, in October 2019, Pfizer launched its 2025 Opportunity Parity Goals initiative, designed to increase diversity in our leadership. In June of 2020, we revisited those goals to expand our commitments to equity.

Our 2025 Opportunity Parity goals dictate that by 2025, we will achieve parity at the vice president and above level for U.S. minorities by increasing our minority representation from 19% to 32%, as well as reach global parity of 47% at the VP+ level.

The HR Digest: How can companies commit to truer diversity and make progress without disenfranchising men and women who come from a privileged section of the society?  

As companies execute their DEI efforts, it is important that they uphold the principles of inclusion. At Pfizer, we recognize that all colleagues have an important role to play in driving inclusion and change across the organization. 

The company collaborates with more than 100 global Employee Colleague Resource Groups (ECRGs). ECRGs offer support, developmental opportunities, mentoring and networking opportunities to help members enhance their skills, foster allyship and inclusion, and help advance their careers. These groups provide a forum from which all colleagues can benefit.

In addition, Pfizer offers two global development programs for all colleagues. First, the Harvard Mentor Manager (HMM) helps colleagues develop the skills they need to thrive in the workforce. Second, the Pfizer Learning Academy (PLA) is a state-of-the-art platform powered by Degreed that enables a personalized learning experience for colleagues to learn, grow, and enable a sustainable culture of learning that strategically differentiates Pfizer and empowers every colleague to realize their full potential to deliver on our competitive edge and better serve our patients.

The HR Digest: How much does government policy matter in company affairs?  

 Pfizer’s approach to governance supports:

  • Good Health & Well-Being: We aspire to ensure health and well-being for all at all ages through equitable access to medicines and vaccines.
  • Gender Equality: We aim to end discrimination against women and ensure equal opportunities for leadership.
  • Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions: We operate to uphold justice, promote the rule of law, and develop ethical, transparent, and representative decision-making.

Pfizer’s Board of Directors, which is critical to our governance, is composed of a majority of independent directors, reflecting diversity with respect to gender, age, race, ethnicity, background, professional experience and perspectives.

The HR Digest: How can you tell if you’ve succeeded in convincing executives to bring more diverse talent on board, or if they are simply paying lip service to the idea? 

We have a CEO, Dr. Albert Bourla, who is 100% committed to – and personally invested in – our corporate values of Equity, Excellence, Courage and Joy. He has directed us to take a data-driven approach to our Equity commitments so that we can ensure that current and future colleagues have access to the resources and educational opportunities they need to succeed, as well as a clear understanding of the reasons behind our DEI efforts.

Dr. Bourla was a driving force behind Pfizer’s Breakthrough Fellowship Program, a nine-year commitment to increase minority representation at Pfizer. This first-of-its-kind fellowship program will work to advance undergraduate students and Fellows of Black/African American, Latinx/Hispanic and Native-American descent, minority communities that remain underrepresented at leadership levels in Corporate America.  The Breakthrough Fellowship Program will recruit on an annual basis with a target of engaging 100 Fellows by 2025.

Beginning with the Executive Leadership Team, Pfizer offers training to address, in a forthright and direct way, topics such as racism, conscious and unconscious bias, and bystander responsibility. The company’s In-Kind program offers resources designed to support managers in having courageous conversations in an empathetic and productive way about Equity, race, and bias with their teams. Pfizer has also redirected its Summer Student Worker program so that there are opportunities for disadvantaged or underrepresented students.

Lastly, we measure progress in terms of representation, but we also ask colleagues to provide feedback regarding how mangers embrace DEI in the day to day. We have also developed an inclusive index, measured every year during our annual engagement survey, to determine how our employees perceive inclusion. We use that feedback to strengthen our DEI efforts.

The HR Digest: What’s next for Pfizer?  

Pfizer recognizes its responsibility, not just in pioneering medical and scientific breakthroughs for the patients we serve, but also in growing teams of colleagues that represent and model diversity and inclusiveness in our workforce. 

We are excited to see the full implementation and success of a program we recently launched. In September, Pfizer announced an effort to hire and train 100 refugees by the end of 2022. This program will be open to all refugees – regardless of their country of origin. The Company will partner with local NGOs to provide informational sessions, resume building workshops, mock interviews, and career advice. In addition, Pfizer will provide mentorship opportunities to an additional 150 refugees by the end of 2022 – with 50 of these opportunities earmarked for LGBTQ+ refugees. To do so, Pfizer will identify job opportunities for refugees across different divisions and functions throughout the Company.

Anna Verasai
Anna Versai is a Team Writer at The HR Digest; she covers topics related to Recruitment, Workplace Culture, Interview Tips, Employee Benefits, HR News and HR Leadership. She also writes for Technowize, providing her views on the Upcoming Technology, Product Reviews, and the latest apps and softwares.

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