Promoting Diversity in Bioscience

A recent report from BIO (Biotechnology Innovation Organization) highlighted the challenges facing the life science sector with only 4% of total employment African American and 5% Latino.  At the executive and board level, the percentage drops to just 1% for African Americans and 3% for Latinos. Women are another group that is poorly represented with just 30% at the executive level and just 18% at the board level. But strategies and solutions to improve diversity in bioscience was the topic of the day at Amgen’s Black Employee Network 2020 Black History Month Panel at the Amgen World Headquarters.

The panel, featuring Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas and Harvard Dean of Diversity and Community Partnerships Dr. Joan Reede, was moderated by Community Access, Recruitment, and Engagement (CARE) Research Center Founder Jonathan Jackson.

(Left to Right) Community Access, Recruitment, and Engagement (CARE) Research Center Founder Jonathan Jackson, Harvard Dean of Diversity and Community Partnerships Dr. Joan Reede, and Supervisor Ridley-Thomas. Photo by Aurelia Ventura / Board of Supervisors

“Recognizing the importance of diversity is particularly important to the future of any a biotech company,” said Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas who has pioneered LA County’s efforts to boost the region’s bioscience industry.  “Policies that achieve inclusion is good for a company’s bottom line and long-term growth prospects.”

Recently, Los Angeles County launched a new program to train hundreds of new workers for the rapidly growing bioscience industry. The Bio-Flex Initiative offers pre-apprenticeships and registered apprenticeships that could lead to employment opportunities in some of the County’s leading bioscience companies.  The South Bay Workforce Investment Board has partnered with Compton Unified School District and Torrance Unified School District to expand the impact of the Bio-Flex Initiative to high school students.

“You have to be consistent,” said Harvard Dean of Diversity and Community Partnerships Dr. Joan Reede. “You have to understand that you are talking about interfacing systems.”

“If there’s a message to be derived from Black History Month, it is ‘Keep pushing and don’t look back,’” said Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas.