OWL's 2023 DEI Year in Review | OWL Cary, NC | OWL

OWL’s 2023 DEI Year in Review

Inside the OWL Studio banner

Jessica Walker, Senior Director of Operational Strategy at Ora. Regardless of the challenges and changes of 2023, Ora is more invested than ever. Their work includes looking at their staffing and recruitment as well as outreach to communities for care and clinical research. An incredible thing they are doing is focusing on the nuances of care and research.

  • Who are the overlooked communities? And why have they been overlooked?
  • What are their challenges or “hang-ups” around care and research? What’s their perspective?
  • What are the barriers to access that they face?

Something that Jessica was excited to see was that, as they were highlighting and uplifting many great team members, many of them were women – and working moms, which has been a commonly overlooked and devalued demographic.

Shannon Stoddard, President at Promedica International. Promedica proves that every strategy doesn’t have to be the same to be effective. While they don’t have a set DEI program, they’ve offered various DEI or DEI-related training that received great reviews.

Last year, they hosted a live HR Day where they came together to discuss various business topics as well as participate in bias training. The training discussed contributing factors to bias, such as family history and culture, and encouraged employees to ask themselves,

“What biases do I have?”

“What am I doing or believe that I don’t realize that contributes to my bias?”

One of Shannon’s key observations was that the training provided valuable information on how to stop, think, reflect, and get out of old, problematic patterns.

Currently, this HR Day event is set annually, but with their recent additional HR administrators, they plan to increase frequency. They’ve also launched a quarterly newsletter that encourages team feedback and engagement.

Nancy Lurker, Executive Vice Chair & Board Director at EyePoint Pharmaceuticals. At EyePoint, DEI is a core value and Nancy’s message to other companies is to, “Continue to strive to have a broadly diverse organization – up and down. From the board of directors to the lab.”

They’ve focused on diversity at every level and in every way. Although she recognizes this phrase has been a bit overused, Nancy is a firm believer in diversity of thought. But this is more than lip service, she and EyePoint are heavily invested in their recruitment strategy. Their outreach includes colleges, which is new, as well as underserved, low-income areas where this industry may be intimidating to many.

Her biggest gripe is how we easily fall into the trap of only hiring people like us whom we are comfortable with, but as she says, “If you only hire people like you, you’re not going to get the diversity you need.”

She focuses on being broad-minded and broad-thinking, but to do that, she understands that it takes intention and movement.

“You can’t just say it is your goal.”

Harry B. “Pierre” Simon Jr., Global Vice President of Surgical Glaucoma Marketing at Sight Sciences. Something impactful Pierre offered was that companies need to “Stop doing D&I and become diverse and inclusive.” In this philosophy, Sight Sciences believes in building a true pipeline for diverse candidates through their recruitment strategy. Pierre put it simply but it is profound – the diseases are diverse, the surgeons and candidates are diverse, and the served communities are diverse, so staff has to be reflective of the 360-diversity that is this industry.

Given we spend most of our time at work, Pierre wants to cultivate a culture of belonging, safety, comfort, and happiness. He believes that if people feel seen, included, and considered they’ll work better, be more productive, and it won’t feel like work – in the old back-breaking sense.

They also invest in affinity groups. Their highlighted group, Women in Leadership, is a space for like-minded people to have a place to grow their skill set and potential. He wants people to feel like they are “A part of something larger than themselves outside of just creating products and delivering technologies to the community.”

Dianne Whitfield, Chief Human Resources Officer at Tarsus Pharmaceuticals. Not only does Tarsus aim to enrich its workplace and products through diversity, but it also wants to make significant change within the industry as a whole. It seems like a daunting undertaking, but they’ve made incredible strides in just two short years.

Tarsus has been able to see quick success by making DEI a part of their DNA and being intentional with their efforts and tracking metrics. Focusing on their staff, they’ve increased diversity in ethnicity and gender at every level. Within leadership, 49% are female and 58% are people of color. Incredible stats and something Dianne and Tarsus take great pride in.

Their core approach called Vision for Change is their overarching strategy and consists of three pillars:

  • Business Effectiveness – being intentional and representative.
  • Belonging – creating inclusive spaces.
  • Community – outreach, and engagement with the surrounding community.

In addition to this great work, they also engage and educate the staff through events and presentations such as Juneteenth events and guest speakers, receiving consistent positive responses.

We hope our wonderful OWL members walk away inspired, more determined, and with a variety of new ideas and strategies to make your 2024 incredible. We greatly appreciate the time everyone took to speak with us and share their valuable expertise and experience.

You can watch all of our interviews on our website here: https://www.owlsite.org/owl-champions/inside-the-owl-studio/

Something that stuck out and that was powerful was how everyone and their organizations remained determined in the face of the shift we faced in 2023; they doubled down and invested even more in their principles and their teams. They are proof that DEI is not a trend, but the tide that raises all ships.

Our organizations, our teams, our communities, our industry, and ourselves – when we are inclusive and make people feel that they belong, everyone wins.


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