Meet the woman who’s ensuring diversity is more than just a corporate buzzword
For Women’s History Month, Johnson & Johnson’s Chief Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Officer shares her unique story and the unique steps the company is taking to create a true culture of belonging—steps that helped it land the top spot on the 2018 DiversityInc Top 50 Companies for Diversity list.
Diversity at Johnson & Johnson isn’t a modern concept. When the company opened in 1886, eight of the 14 initial employees were women.
Today, some 46% of its employees worldwide are women—including Wanda Bryant Hope, Johnson & Johnson’s Chief Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Officer, who has long understood the importance of fostering a corporate culture that fully supports everyone.
Yes, it’s about finding the right talent and helping everyone feel like they belong and can contribute ideas once they’re hired, she says—but it’s also about figuring out how to deliver solutions to satisfy a diverse and multicultural group of patients and customers.
Since Hope moved into her role nearly three years ago, her team’s efforts have been paying off—and not just in terms of feel-good vibes.
The company recently ranked #2 out of 100 publicly traded companies on the Thomson Reuters Diversity & Inclusion Index—and just took the #1 spot on the 2018 DiversityInc Top 50 Companies for Diversity list.
For Women’s History Month, we sat down with her to learn more about why she believes “diversity and inclusion isn’t only the right thing to do; it’s also the business thing to do.”
What diversity really means to me ...
If you were to ask 10 people what diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) means, you’d get 10 different answers.
At Johnson & Johnson, we didn’t have one aligned vision, mission or definition for DEI. So we did an extensive scan of best practices at other companies, then we evaluated our internal processes to analyze every factor that was impacting our culture.
We also connected with more than 7,000 of our employees around the globe to learn what they wanted from Johnson & Johnson.
And what they told us is that DEI means you belong.
Specifically, it’s about bringing together a full array of backgrounds, beliefs and experiences in an environment where everyone is valued and working together to achieve greater things.
I’m a good fit for the role because ...
Today’s fast-changing and diverse world requires leaders who understand both the talent and business aspects of DEI—and have insight into how we can improve both.
I spent the majority of my career in our pharmaceutical sector, starting out as a Sales Representative, before moving into multiple sales and marketing, analytics and operations leadership roles. I then had the opportunity to move into my first HR role as the VP of Global Performance and Development.
It’s been a long and wonderful journey. The great thing about Johnson & Johnson is that my story is not unique; many employees here have had the opportunity to experience different aspects of the business, while building the skills needed to become strong leaders.
Throughout my career, I’ve always hired and developed high-performing teams that were also diverse. When I was a Region Business Director, for instance, my region significantly outperformed others in sales results. Our VP asked what we were doing differently. I knew that I’d hired really great people, but I also realized we had the most diverse team. They understood the needs of our diverse and multicultural customers and were able to connect with them in meaningful ways that resonated.
Study after study has demonstrated the business value of DEI. Research from consulting company Deloitte, for instance, has shown that organizations with more inclusive cultures are twice as likely to meet or exceed their financial targets. And a January report from consulting firm McKinsey found that companies in the top quartile of ethnic diversity overperformed in profitability by 33%.
At Johnson & Johnson, we have more blacks, Latinos and Asians on our board of directors than many other leading corporations.
My passion for diversity is also personal ...
I grew up with very powerful parents who were always focused on equality. When my mother was a college student in South Carolina, black people weren’t allowed to use the same water fountains or restrooms as white people, and eating at the same lunch counter was certainly forbidden.
One day, my mom went to a local five-and-dime store, sat at the lunch counter and ordered a burger and soda. She was fairly light-skinned, so no one stopped her—but when her food arrived, she waved in a group of black students who sat down and began eating. Chaos ensued, and many of the black students, including my mom, were hauled off to jail.
I grew up with the understanding that you must strive to make the world a better place. In my role as Chief Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Officer, I’m continuing to be inspired by my parents’ work and the work of the generations that came before me.
While in jail, my mother wrote a long note to her mother on a roll of toilet paper explaining why her fight for freedom and equality was so important. The highlight: She said she didn’t mind being in jail, as long as it meant that one day her child would be treated as an equal. My family still has that toilet paper roll, and it’s our most valuable possession.
My father was also active in civic organizations, so I grew up with the understanding that you must strive to make the world a better place. In my role as Chief Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Officer, I’m continuing to be inspired by my parents’ work and the work of the generations that came before me.
I’m most proud of ...
In the past few years, my team has partnered with Harvard professor Mahzarin Banaji, author of Blindspot: Hidden Biases of Good People. So far, more than 20,000 Johnson & Johnson managers around the world have attended her seminars about unconscious bias—or the ways our unknowing perceptions of different social groups shape our judgments about people—and how to mitigate it.
Everyone has some unconscious bias, so our goal is to embed strategies into our corporate culture allowing us to learn automatically how to combat it. We can all use a reminder to pause and make sure your actions are aligned with your intentions.
One massive goal we have for this year is to roll out unconscious bias training, based on Banaji’s teachings, to all Johnson & Johnson employees. To date, more than 90% of managers, directors and VPs have taken the training, with a plan to extend it to all employees shortly.
On Johnson & Johnson being named #1 on the DiversityInc Top 50 Companies for Diversity list ...
Being #1 is a clear recognition that approaching DEI as a business imperative was the right course of action. Our world is becoming much more diverse and multicultural; the innovations we need to provide health to billions of people can only come when we bring diverse backgrounds, cultures and perspectives together—and provide everyone with an inclusive environment where their ideas can be heard and they can perform at their best.
Johnson & Johnson’s Chairman and CEO, Alex Gorsky, also received DiversityInc’s inaugural Global Inclusive Leader Award. He has led the way in supporting key company initiatives, like unconscious bias training for all employees; he’s also leading the way externally, such as through his willingness to take a stand on behalf of Johnson & Johnson on issues like Syrian refugees and marriage equality. He’s truly been an inclusive leader, and I believe he was the only choice for this prestigious award.
I’m really excited about ...
... a project that brings the full power of Johnson & Johnson together to help our communities. We’ll be connecting with 10th-graders in underserved areas to help support them through to college graduation with mentoring, internships, leadership training and assistance with resume writing and interview skills, among other things.
Our goal is to help them succeed in high school, college and the workforce—and, hopefully, they can become members of our Johnson & Johnson family.