While most companies state that diversity is a key priority, the move towards a more diverse workforce is taking much longer than expected. One of the main reasons for this is the recruitment processes in place, as they were not designed to ensure adequate representation. Women of color are poorly represented in senior life science roles, not because they are not able and ready to promote, but because the system is biased against them. Let’s look at some of the biggest obstacles they face when trying to progress.
Lack of Opportunity and Role Models
When you consider that women of color are the least represented group in life sciences, you have to consider the lack of educational opportunities as well as questioning why women choose to pursue other paths. Life science is a male-dominated industry, meaning that there are very few role models for women of color to aspire to. This creates a belief that women do not belong in the industry and that their gender and skin color will hinder their potential success.
Unconscious bias in life science recruitment is a huge problem when getting women of color through the door. Many recruitment processes are designed to help companies find more people like them, making it harder for women of color to be considered suitable for roles that others have traditionally filled. Taking steps to remove unconscious bias means changing processes that companies believe have served them well, such as CV screening, interview processes, and even considering how job descriptions have been written.
Lack of Leadership Options
When women of color are employed in life science companies, their career path is not clearly defined for others because there are so few leaders like them. Many women of color then find that they become stuck in a role because there are no opportunities to develop, leading to a lack of leadership options. This problem affects the individual and stops companies from achieving their diversity goals, even when they are fully committed to change.
Changing the Paradigm
The good news is that there are a wealth of opportunities that life science companies can choose that will help to remove some of the hurdles that women of color face when looking for advancement:
- Designing a diverse recruitment program – one of the first hurdles a company must address is its recruitment process. Taking the time to remove as much bias as possible, offering positive discrimination processes, and actively seeking out candidates from diverse colleges.
- Creating leadership opportunities – when a candidate shows managerial potential, even at the start of their career, ensure a leadership program they can access to develop their skills. This will not only provide them with the ongoing support they will need to succeed, but it will help with retention and support you to grow a diverse team.
- Promote diversity – creating successful role models accessible to others is another great way to build a more diverse workforce. Showcasing someone and their journey will help candidates feel that there is a path to follow and ensure that they enjoy a sense of belonging in the workplace.
- Listen to women of color – above all, companies must listen to women of color to ensure that the processes to be implemented would appeal to this demographic. Failing to include women of color in this process is not only tokenistic, but it will not produce the required outcomes.
If you are keen to encourage diversity in your firm and need help with creating opportunities for women of color then starting with a period of reflection will get you started on the right path. Analysing the options open to applicants and the people that can support them when they join your firm is important, but getting to grips with a cultural shift starts with things like job descriptions and creating bespoke opportunities. GeneCoda® is here to help you on this journey and can support you as you move towards a truly diverse workforce.