Diversity, inclusion and addressing unconscious bias

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Ai Hua Ong, Company Group Chairman, Asia Pacific
The Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies of Johnson & Johnson

“There is a clear correlation between an inclusive culture and innovation.”

Creating a diverse workforce and an inclusive culture is key to an organisation’s success in today’s and tomorrow’s world. Organisations large and small are embracing what we in Singapore have known and nurtured for years – the understanding that diversity and inclusion breeds growth and prosperity.

I apply my first-hand experience and understanding of breaking down barriers to inclusion on a daily basis. This goes towards ensuring success in my role leading the APAC region of a global pharmaceutical business.

Recent research has confirmed a strong link between a diverse workforce and business performance. A 2018 McKinsey report found that companies in the top quartile for gender diversity on their executive teams were 21 per cent more likely to deliver above-average profitability. By the same token, companies with the most ethnically diverse executive teams were 33 per cent more likely to outperform their peers. Today, I am fortunate to work with a highly diverse and inclusive leadership team and see how this leads to richer and more thorough decision making.

The importance of a commitment to diversity and inclusion has not only long been recognised for attracting and retaining high performing employees. It also has numerous other benefits for an organisation.

There is a clear correlation between an inclusive culture and innovation. This should not come as a surprise to anyone who has had the opportunity to observe how open discussions between people with different perspectives can inspire the out-of-the-box ideas that propel businesses forward. In fact, Deloitte has found that organisations with inclusive cultures are six times more likely to be innovative, whereas a lack of diverse thought impedes creativity.

Over the course of my career, I have always made it my mission to lead by example and create a workplace that is inclusive and supports the open exchange of ideas. Today, I work with the most diverse group of people imaginable. From age and ethnicity to expertise and experience inside and outside the pharmaceutical sector, unique perspectives are the defining feature. While this can make for long and often complex discussions, we delight in debates as we are aware of the pioneering outcomes they produce.

Of course, there will always be room for improvement, particularly in light of growing evidence on the impact of “unconscious bias” in the workplace. While not many people are aware of this phenomenon, it impacts the countless choices we make every day based on our experiences and the effects of outside influences.

When unconscious bias influences our decisions based on the spelling of a name or the way someone looks, we may end up closing the door on people and ideas that carry significant potential for the business.

This is why at our organisation we are actively addressing unconscious bias. We have trained our employees to understand the risk of unconscious bias and provide the tools they need to avoid falling into its pitfalls. To help build truly inclusive leadership competencies, our employees are equipped with the capabilities to pro-actively address unconscious bias and lead the way in fostering a diverse and inclusive culture.

For many, removing unconscious bias will mean a paradigm shift in the way they hire and work, and it will take some time to permeate through entire organizations. However, it is a crucial step in delivering an inclusive culture and harnessing the potential of a diverse team, where every voice is heard and every perspective matters.

I am confident that our efforts in this regard will help unlock growth opportunities at a time when we are increasingly moving towards a more personalised approach to healthcare that allows customised and targeted care to individual needs. It will also help us to better meet the needs of the patients and healthcare professionals we serve and to create a healthier world where disease is a thing of the past.

 

 

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