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Committed to Diversity

Pfizer prioritizes
workplace inclusivity
By Karen Emslie, C&EN BrandLab

D iversity, by its very nature, encompasses many things: a person’s race, sexual orientation, or gender, or perhaps their disability or socioeconomic background. Inclusive environments—where everyone can flourish and feel valued—support equitable opportunity. Tackling complex problems in science is a process aided immeasurably by diversity of thought and approach. Today, many organizations are working to improve inclusion and build more diverse workplaces. Here’s how Pfizer is meeting the challenge.

Diversity and inclusion are core values at Pfizer, according to principal scientist Caroline Blakemore. “It’s something that's really, really important to the company,” she says. Diverse hiring—on all levels, from interns to senior leadership—is essential for creating inclusive environments. Pfizer aims to have a diverse range of applicants for every open position.

“What we're trying to do is foster awareness and support each other.”
- Caroline Blakemore,

Blakemore embraces her outreach activities, which include visiting universities across the US to talk with students and organizing ambitious events like Pfizer Chemistry Connect. These symposiums foster discussion between students and Pfizer experts in fields such as organic and analytical chemistry, as well as chemical engineering. It is a two-way street, Blakemore says: students come not just to discuss careers but to share their own research. “I think it really helps to build that strong interaction,” she adds.

Once someone joins the Pfizer team, the company puts energy into nurturing and retaining diverse talent. Practical strategies include talent development, mentorship, and advocacy initiatives. Education and training on topics such as unconscious bias and allyship are also key.

Michael Green, a Black chemist and senior principal scientist at Pfizer, feels valued and accepted in his current role, but as a younger student he often felt he had to prove himself. His mindset used to be: “I have to be the best at everything to show that I belong,” he recalls. Now, Green says, conversations are happening, and underrepresented minorities have a stronger voice.

Company resource groups such as the Global Asian Alliance, Global Black Community, and OPEN (Out Pfizer Employee Network) for LGBTQ+ colleagues provide platforms for dialogue. “These organizations really have the ear of senior leadership,” Green says. Blakemore, who co-leads talent acquisition for the Global Black Community at Pfizer’s Connecticut site, says that people can join multiple groups and that there’s a strong spirit of collaboration. “What we're trying to do is foster awareness and support each other,” she says.

As Pfizer’s head of medicine design, Charlotte Allerton integrates diversity and inclusion into her day-to-day work. Her motivation is a fundamental belief in equal opportunity. This means developing a culture that lets everyone thrive, she explains, “and also having colleagues that really represent the diversity of the societies in which we live and work.” A big part of the effort is ensuring that “we seek out people’s views” and that they are heard, Allerton says. It’s also important not to make it the burden of underrepresented colleagues to instruct those around them, she says, but to create a “careful balance of listening and self-educating.” Green agrees. “By nature of being a minority, there's not enough of us to do all the things that need to be done,” he says. “Everyone has a hand in doing this.”

Pfizer is committed to building and maintaining a culture where everyone knows they belong and can fulfill their potential. It is a commitment based on the knowledge that all of us—individuals, the scientific community, and society—benefit from diversity.

C&EN BrandLab, in partnership with Pfizer, committed to celebrating Black chemists throughout 2021 by recognizing their contributions on C&EN’s social media platforms. Over the year, C&EN BrandLab shared a weekly post about a phenomenal Black chemist representing a diverse mix of career stages and geographic locations. Now we are sharing their stories here in the pages of C&EN to allow our broad audience of chemistry enthusiasts to celebrate the contributions of Black chemists to science.

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