One of the reasons I love working at Vertex is that my colleagues don’t ask me why inclusion, diversity and equity (ID&E) are important. They ask what more they can do to promote and embed ID&E into everything we do.
They understand that ID&E is core to who we are. And they know that Vertex is more innovative, better equipped to serve patients and better able to build high performing teams when ID&E is central to our culture.
Our aspiration is to foster an inclusive and equitable culture that enables all people to thrive. In doing so, Vertex will realize the full potential of our rich diversity to innovate and deliver transformative medicines for patients. We are particularly focused on talent whose backgrounds and identities are underrepresented in the biotech sector, and we are committed to strengthening diversity across all our sites and functions globally in order to achieve equitable representation at every level of our organization. We want to ensure that the workforce inside Vertex reflects the external talent pools and population in the communities in which we operate.
Achieving this takes collective action and shared ownership from everyone in the organization. That’s why we have a holistic strategy that engages all Vertex employees — “Vertexians” — through three key focus areas.
We want to foster a culture where all Vertexians feel, and are, valued for sharing their perspectives and challenging ideas across differences.
To do this, we are taking a foundational step to equip all Vertexians with the skills and resources needed to “LIVE” ID&E in their day-to-day interactions and decisions. Our comprehensive LIVE ID&E Learning Portfolio is designed to enable each of us to progress in our journey to become inclusive team members and leaders who seek out and value different perspectives. Through courses such as Insider and Outsider Dynamics, Managing Bias at the Office, Inclusive Hiring and Understanding Minority Patients, Vertexians Learn key concepts, are provided with tools to Implement the concepts in their daily interactions, Validate what works, and Embed ID&E in our systems and processes.
We aspire to have a workforce that reflects the rich multitude of backgrounds, cultures, identities and life experiences that comprise the communities where we live and work (and play).
How are we doing this?
We are investing to address underrepresentation in our talent pipeline and in leadership, with a focus on racial, ethnic, cultural and gender diversity. Studies show that underrepresentation is often a result of inequitable access to recruiting opportunities, networks and relationships, as well as stretch assignments needed to develop, advance and thrive.
To address recruiting opportunities, we’ve strengthened our relationships with diversity partner organizations to proactively seek out talent that has been traditionally underrepresented in biotech. Our partnership with Boston-based Year Up is one example of an early career program where we developed and launched a first-of-its-kind biotechnology curriculum for young adults who do not have a four-year college degree. We hosted ten interns last year – and were thrilled when eight interns joined Vertex as full-time employees this past January.
Beyond recruiting, we’re focused on mentoring and career growth and development, no matter where people are in their careers. Mentoring is important to everyone’s career growth, but research shows that when it is informal, mentors tend to choose mentees who are similar to them culturally, by gender, and by ethnicity. Vertex’s Global Mentoring Program, which is open to all employees, uses an algorithm to facilitate mentor-mentee matches based on how closely aligned a mentee’s development goals are to a mentor’s strengths. Our four global employee resource networks also provide formal mentoring opportunities. Additionally, we launched an Executive Mentoring Circle (EMC) program that connects our Executive Committee (EC) members to Black and Latinx talent at the Director level and above. By facilitating meaningful relationships between EC mentors and mentees, EC members gain a broader view of Vertex’s executive-ready talent and mentees gain visibility and exposure to leadership and each other.
“The opportunity to join the first cohort of mentees partnered with an EC member had a huge impact on my personal growth and career growth and development.”
The formality in these programs ensures all employees — particularly those from underrepresented groups — have equitable access to mentors.
We’re focused on achieving equitable representation and fair treatment by providing the opportunities, information and resources needed so each of our employees can grow and thrive.
In 2020, we intentionally moved from “D&I” to “ID&E,” adding equity as a core focus. Equity is critical to ensuring we have fair treatment across our internal processes and practices. Bias can get in the way of our intent to be fair, so addressing systemic inequities by mitigating bias is a top priority.
We’ve implemented “bias interrupters” in processes that can have a big impact on careers — hiring, feedback and allocation of “career making” assignments that provide skill building and leadership opportunities. Bias interrupters cause us to pause, reflect on and challenge our criteria for decisions. They allow us to make sure that opportunities are transparent for everyone and expand our views of success.
What does this look like?
One tangible example of a bias interrupter is integrated in our hiring process. As part of planning and scheduling interviews, the hiring manager is expected to share the hiring criteria for the role with all interviewers and assign each interviewer specific skills to assess. Interviewers are provided sample questions and are guided to ask all candidates the same set of questions. Explicitly clarifying criteria before any candidates are interviewed helps ensure that hiring managers and interviewers evaluate and make decisions based on a consistent set of skills and criteria.
We also have a Career Hub, which is a portal where Vertexians at every level of the company can explore career possibilities, plan career path options and develop their skills. It’s also a central location where gigs (short-term, temporary assignments designed to enable career growth and development) and open roles are posted. With the help of the Data Sciences group at Vertex, the Career Hub uses a job matching algorithm to help employees identify opportunities to grow their career, aligning internal job opportunities with their skills and interests. By openly posting gigs and open roles, Vertex is providing more transparency and more ability for people to raise their hand for a career development opportunity they’re interested in.
As a marathon runner, I often compare our path to achieving our ID&E aspiration as a marathon, not a sprint. Through our focus areas, we have made great strides on our journey so far. It will take all 4,000+ of us to continue our progress, and I have full confidence that we can do it. Because at our heart, Vertexians are serial innovators who are relentless in the pursuit of excellence — excellence in the scientific breakthroughs we pursue as well as excellence in supporting each other as one Vertex community.
Learn more about ID&E at Vertex: https://www.vrtx.com/careers/inclusion-diversity-and-equity/