Quita Highsmith Chief Diversity Officer At Genentech On Diversity & Inclusion

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2020 has been a year of change. With the emergence of COVID-19, racial injustices and systemic racism, companies have been forced to further develop and champion their diversity and inclusion (D&I) programming. 

Genentech believes that embracing D&I means fostering belonging within our own walls, advancing inclusive research and health equity in our industry at-large and transforming society through partnerships across healthcare, education and within all communities.

They believe that by focusing on fostering belonging they encourage diversity of background, thought, and experience, they are far more likely to uncover new insights and unique approaches to addressing a challenge. This perspective is particularly critical for Genentech as they work to discover and develop medicines for some of the world’s most serious diseases. They are committed to sustaining an environment where scientific discovery can thrive, where the industry’s most talented people can do their best work, and where innovative medicines can reach those who need them most.

“We drive innovation when we all contribute to an inclusive culture that attracts a diverse group of the best and brightest talent and inspires everyone to freely contribute to their maximum potential and make a meaningful difference for patients every day.” –Alexander Hardy, CEO, Genentech

Quita Highsmith, vice president and Chief Diversity Officer at Genentech, is responsible for leading the company’s D&I strategy. She’s a named author in several publications about oncology disparities, including the Journal of Oncology Practice, American Association of Cancer Research and Contemporary Clinical Trials, and brings more than three decades of experience to her role recruiting, retaining and developing diverse talent, investing in initiatives to support science education, and addressing barriers in clinical trial participation via Advancing Inclusive Research™. 

Quita is well-known in the biotech industry for being an award-winning visionary and promoting patient inclusion. In 2020, she was named one of the 100 Most Influential Women in Business in the Bay Area by the San Francisco Business Times and to PharmaVOICE’s Women of Influence list. In addition to holding a Master of Business Administration from the Johnson School at Cornell University and her undergraduate degree from the University of Kentucky, she’s also a mother of two. Her family—husband Quincy and children Quintin and Quinlyn—are affectionately known as the “Q-Crew.”

To learn more about Genentech’s D&I programming, I sat down for a Q&A with Quita Highsmith. 

Q: With COVID-19 and the current national civil unrest happening, diversity and inclusion training and programming has been extremely important. How are you educating the workforce at Genentech while keeping momentum going on the critical work of educating and training employees on how to consider and talk about race, while actively dismantling bias?

A: Now more than ever, the lines between our personal and professional lives are blurred. We can’t be expected to leave our individual experiences and societal challenges at the virtual office door when working from home. It is time to be bold, no more tiptoeing around race at work. 

At Genentech, we created a virtual toolkit for employees to learn and take action. A few months ago, we hosted 12 dialogue circles with participation from 250 employees at each one, so employees could share how they felt about the social injustices happening in our country. I attended every dialogue circle. So many employees wanted to participate that we’ve now created a playbook for our senior leadership team to facilitate conversations among their teams. We also launched “Of Many Cultures” — a monthly virtual speaker series to foster belonging and help employees expand their knowledge-base by hearing about workplace culture, inclusion, and health equity topics…

Source: Glassdoor Blog

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