Giving a voice to professionals of color is important in the life sciences

By Samantha Black, PhD, ScienceBoard editor in chief

February 25, 2022 -- Creating an environment where professionals of color feel empowered to use their voice and confidence that they will be heard is critical to business success, according to Pratt Wiley, CEO of The Partnership. He spoke with ScienceBoard about some of the important work the organization is leading to support diversity, equity, and inclusion in the workplace.

There's a very strong business case for diversity and inclusion within the human resources function, Wiley said. Talent is the only long-term competitive advantage that any company has, he continued. And the ability to recruit and leverage talent can be a huge differentiating factor for companies.

The Partnership was founded as the business community and the communities of color in Boston came together to try to resolve the lack of talent that the city was suffering from in the 1970s. The organization is focused on attracting, retaining, and developing professionals of color at all levels of leadership. They do this by creating a space where professionals of color have the skills and resources to succeed in both their current roles and in future endeavors; where companies have the policies and the practices in place to create corporate cultures; and where everyone succeeds no matter who they are or where they're from.

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One of The Partnership’s key initiatives is the BioDiversity Fellow Leadership Development Program. Its threefold approach is designed to help participants develop leadership skills, help expose participants to a shift in mindset, and help them find their voice.

Wiley said the program mentors help participants think about their personal brand, including how it is viewed and perceived by others, understanding that others’ motivations and drivers are vastly different from their own. The program also encourages participants to find their voice. This concept involves the need for people to be heard and empowered to use their voices and be seen by others. The last component of this is that others need to be open to hearing what they say. The program and its mentors help participants do just this.

“The results are uniform that the coming out of these programs, these professionals and these executives have a greater leadership presence,” Wiley emphasized. “They have a more assertive voice, an even greater understood banding of their place in the organization, and how they contribute to the overall goals of the company. And they are more empowered to speak up for changes and advancements and innovations that they believe in, that they see can actually drive the business forward. And that's the hope.”

The Partnership is currently presented in 25 states, where it works with professionals of color who are feeling isolated or who don’t quite know how to best navigate the next step in their careers and sector executives of color who recognize that they are at an inflection point in their career but don't quite know what to do or don't know who to talk to. The organization has over 5,000 alumni who are at various stages of their careers ranging from CEOs to assistant store managers.

“What they all share in common is that they, each and every day, exhibit professional excellence and they are committed to making sure that their communities both where they live and where they work, are as inclusive as possible so that everybody can thrive and I can't think of a better organization to be affiliated with,” Wiley shared.

“There's a place for them here at The Partnership and that's why we want to expand because we just want to make sure that no one ever feels alone. No one ever feels silenced, no one ever feels invisible.”

Do you have a unique perspective on your diversity, equity, and inclusion in the life sciences? Contact the editor today to learn more.

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