Choosing to challenge: why diversity and inclusion is critical for business success
As a mission-driven company, working to find treatments for people who are often excluded from the traditional drug discovery process, inclusion is at the very heart of what we do and why we do it. It’s also a key part of how we do it – by proactively partnering with rare disease patient groups and communities to ensure their voice, expertise and insight are at the heart of our efforts to find treatments.
Given our mission, many of our employees and their families also live with rare diseases, bringing with them a huge variety of lived experiences and challenges. And, as a company that means we must be conscious of those unique situations – ensuring how we work, where we work and the culture and benefits we develop recognise those unique realities to ensure everyone can bring their full self to work.
We are still at the very beginning our D&I journey – but from ensuring our medical insurance covers pre-existing conditions for these families, to providing unlimited paid COVID-19 leave throughout this most recent lockdown to enable parents and carers to juggle the challenges of life and work, we are working to ensure inclusion and belonging is a central part of working at Healx because we know that is the way to achieve our mission.
This is still very much a work in progress, and we know we still have a way to go – much like the tech industry more broadly. Indeed, technology is one of the most sought after sectors to work in, expanding at a rate nearly three times faster than the rest of the UK economy, and worth nearly £184 billion. But despite this growth, just 15% of the workforce are from BAME backgrounds and only 22% of tech directors are women.
The theme for this year’s International Women’s Day is #ChooseToChallenge, and with that in mind, I wanted to take the opportunity to explore why it is so important that we challenge the lack of diversity and inclusion within tech and beyond. Whether it’s unlocking innovation, or attracting world-class talent, diversity holds the key to long-term business success when properly matched with an inclusive, welcoming and nurturing work environment. Read on to find out more.
Ensuring representation to drive growth
Innovation goes hand-in-hand with growth, and diversity is the secret ingredient to innovation. The stats speak for themselves here: the greater the representation, the more likely companies are to outperform those who are lacking. Indeed, McKinsey found that companies with over 30% of female executives were more likely to do better than companies with less than that. Research has also proven that companies with more culturally and ethnically diverse executive teams are a third more likely to drive above average profits, and a white paper from Cloverpop found that diverse teams outperformed individual decision-makers 87% of the time.
This is because companies and teams with an array of different knowledge bases are able to think and move at pace. Embedding opinions and thoughts from people of different ages, genders, races, cultures and more from the outset means teams are able to identify, assess and solve problems faster, as well as opening the door to ideas and suggestions a more homogenous group may not have considered.
This innovation will, of course, yield financial benefits – but to actually achieve that in the first place, teams must work well together in a genuinely inclusive work environment.
Fostering a culture of inclusion
At Healx, principles of diversity, equity and inclusion are ingrained in everything we do. We work together as a team to provide a supportive and inclusive environment where all employees have their voices heard and where employees feel they can bring their full selves to work. This, in turn, makes people truly feel a part of the team and empowers them to drive forward innovation.
One tool we’ve found particularly successful at Healx is Peakon, an employee engagement tool that surveys the team once every two weeks to get their feedback on everything from their work environment to manager relations to diversity and inclusion. Employees can share suggestions, ideas or concerns in a safe space, knowing their anonymous suggestions will be listened to and acted upon.
We also have several Special Interest Groups (SIGs) which enable team members to bond over subjects and common areas of interest. These vary wildly in subject, but the Diversity and Inclusion SIG is one of our most popular with more than a quarter of the company involved in the Slack channel. The Diversity and Inclusion SIG have been critical in driving awareness across the company, and even ran a series of workshops on how we can build a more inclusive culture – from running better meetings, to organising team social events, to recruiting more widely.
SIGs are an important part of Healx’s culture, bringing together people with a shared passion to create bonds on a personal level and build connections even while working remotely.
Attracting and retaining world-class talent
A diverse team is a driving force when it comes to recruiting individuals and reducing employee turnover. If a candidate cannot relate to the current team, this could deter them from joining and staying, so businesses need to lead by example and demonstrate clear visibility of role models to prospects.
Having joined the team recently myself, Healx’s commitment to growing its talent pool of women was one of the key things that attracted me to the company. For example, last June, Meri Williams joined the team from Monzo as Healx’s new Chief Technology Officer, and Eugenia Wachters has recently been appointed as VP of Commercial Portfolio Strategy. More broadly throughout the organisation, the team have made a concerted effort to increase representation – particularly within tech.
We took the opportunity on International Day of Women and Girls in Science in February to showcase some of the brilliant women on our team and illustrate, in their own words, how they found their journey into science, what motivates them, and why diversity in STEM is so important. We hope that initiatives like this will empower others to see themselves in STEM roles and encourage them to apply to our team.
Having the best talent is essential to drive forward business success, and is also a critical driver for investors to look at when they’re considering investing in a company.
Gaining investor trust
According to a survey by Edelman, 63% per cent of UK investors are applying exclusionary screenings to companies on the basis of diversity and inclusion metrics and a similar number have started to remove companies from their portfolio that do not meet such standards. It is fast becoming the norm for investors to expect strong diversity and inclusion policies from prospective portfolio companies. And so they should. Investors see the value that diverse teams can bring to companies, such as having a broader understanding of certain segments of the market, improving decision-making methodology and enhancing the board performance.
If you are a company relying on investment, it is important that your company is aligned with your shareholders vision for diversity and inclusion. Atomico, one of our key investors, is committed to building the world’s most diverse and inclusive technology ecosystem in Europe and believes enhancing these traits across the industry will increase the overall success and opportunity for everyone. We share this commitment, and are proud to be funded by a company that pushes us to think more deeply and critically about our actions.
Following their investment, we developed our own Diversity and Inclusion policy and set about reviewing our internal practices to ensure we were building and nurturing a diverse team. This is an ongoing journey for us, but we’re excited to be moving in the right direction.
Solving diversity within the tech industry isn’t going to happen overnight, but we must choose to challenge the huge diversity disparities in STEM if we hope to build the innovative technology of the future. Diverse teams lead to a great range of benefits – not only in terms of business growth, but also improved recruitment and retention, and access to value-driven investors. So this International Women’s Day, join us and take a pledge to #ChooseToChallenge the barriers to diversity in tech – and let us know how you get on!