At Vertex Pharmaceuticals, we’re aiming to change the game in science and medicine. That’s why, for our seventh annual Inclusion, Diversity and Equity (ID&E) Week, we focused on the theme of “Game Changers.” Throughout the week, we heard from game-changing leaders both within and outside of Vertex who are enabling significant progress in ID&E. For Vertexians and others who want to channel their inner game changer, I am sharing some of the key insights from this year’s ID&E Week activities and speakers.
We all have a story that’s worthy of being shared
Storytelling is an important way of forging human connection and building psychological safety. During ID&E Week we partnered with Dear World to enable Vertexians to hone their stories about a pivotal, game-changing moment in their lives and to tell the story through a photograph and short phrase. Through these workshops, we shared stories of resilience, bravery and courage. Stories of reinvention. Stories of creating community.
Storytelling has also been an important initiative throughout the year across many Vertex geographies and functions. The “how” is often individualized to specific teams and locations, but the goal is the same: to invite us to see and be seen by colleagues beyond the work we do every day and to deepen belonging by finding commonalities across triumphs, challenges and moments of joy.
Neurodiversity is just one component of what makes people who they are
Shifting beyond our four walls, we welcomed Michael Barton, an autism and neurodiversity speaker and author, into our London office to speak about his own experience living with autism and how harnessing neurodiversity in the workplace can be a game changer.
“We are more than our diagnosis.” Michael reminded us that autism is just one component of what makes people who they are. It is estimated that 15-20% of the world’s population is neurodiverse — that’s more than one billion people — a population that can’t and shouldn’t be ignored.
An important step we can all take, as individuals and organizations, is taking time to better understand autism and what it means to be neurodivergent. “When most people think about autism, they tend to focus on our deficits,” said Michael. But he also shared that when applying for a job he made the personal choice to disclose his autism and focus on his strengths in the interview process. “Being autistic means I’m very focused. I have an exceptional attention to detail. I’m very punctual, reliable. A quick learner. And I can be very honest.”
Creating equitable access is not a zero-sum game
The culmination of this year’s ID&E Week was a thought-provoking panel discussion hosted by our CEO and President Reshma Kewalramani with three game-changing women:
Kate Zernike, reporter for The New York Times and author of the book “The Exceptions”
Dr. Nancy Hopkins, Amgen Professor of Biology Emerita at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Dr. Sangeeta Bhatia, Vertex board member and inventor, MIT professor and biotech entrepreneur
Kate, Nancy and Sangeeta spoke about the importance of using both data and stories to shift perceptions and bring visibility to a problem of inequity. “The Exceptions” is Nancy’s story, a profile of courage and resilience and of challenging the status quo to create equitable access for women faculty at MIT. In sharing her story, and the data to go along with it, she helped enable women across the globe to also raise their voices and share their own stories. The conversation focused on both the progress made and the challenges that women and underrepresented groups can still face, with an emphasis on changing the game by expanding access and opportunities.
There is still more to do, and we are committed to doing the work
How do we scale our ID&E strategy as we grow? Our Executive Committee and Chief Human Resources Officer Stephanie Franklin opened the week with this topic, emphasizing our commitment to embedding ID&E throughout our work and culture. It was inspiring to hear about the activity going on every day across the organization and across the globe.
ID&E is for and about each one of us. It is core to our mission of creating transformative medicines for people with serious diseases, and I am grateful to be on this journey as we move toward our aspiration of fostering an inclusive and equitable culture that enables all Vertexians to thrive.
Learn more about ID&E at Vertex: https://www.vrtx.com/careers/inclusion-diversity-and-equity/.