DIVERSITY, INCLUSION & EQUITY LEADER PROFILE:
Commercial Director, Sales & Marketing (Promoted Brands), Hospital Business, Pfizer Canada
She was born and raised Canadian, but Ranjita Banerjee says she still looked for a sense of belonging as she grew up in Montréal with her Indian immigrant parents. So even after decades of high achievement, including a PhD in oncology research, she still quickly put up her hand when the call went out at Pfizer Canada for someone who’d like to lead its new diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) community of practice.
“When you feel different, individuals tend to hold things back – you don't want to upset anyone or have anybody misinterpret what you're trying to say,” says Banerjee. “It’s something I grew up with myself, not trying to rock the boat. So at that moment, I felt I wanted to help create a place where, regardless of your upbringing or your story, everybody felt comfortable.”
Banerjee, who joined Pfizer in 2008 as a fellow in the health economics and outcomes research group, is now commercial development and strategic initiatives lead in the oncology business unit. The DEI work, which involves leading some 18 colleagues in three workstreams, is over and above her day job, and theirs.
Why is that? Pfizer Canada president Cole Pinnow explains. “We really want this to be embedded in the culture of our organization,” he says. “And there’s no better way of doing that than giving the organization a sense of ownership and accountability.” If the task were carried out only by the human resources group, he says, “it’s not going to have nearly the impact, as opposed to having business unit leads, functional area leads and/or grassroots colleagues who are championing and highlighting those resources.”
At the same time, he notes, Pfizer as a global company has vast DEI resources, including many employee resource groups, which Pfizer Canada takes full advantage of. “That’s why we’ve taken a hybrid approach, where we leverage global resources but really ask our people to own it. We want our colleagues to feel they’ve created this culture that is inclusive.”
Banerjee, who put up her hand in 2019, says the three workstreams focus on: building a culture of belonging; colleagues & leadership – developing a talented, diverse workforce while promoting inclusive leadership; and external stakeholders – advancing DEI through partnerships.
The first priority for the culture group, she says, was to survey the entire workforce to set a baseline on how people felt. “In general, things are going quite positively at Pfizer Canada, so that was a good thing to hear,” she says. One outcome was establishment of a local LGBTQ+ employee resource group, in addition to an existing one for women, and more will likely come, she says. The culture group has also worked to raise awareness of DEI concepts, as well as events such as Black History Month and National Truth and Reconciliation Day.
Meanwhile, the colleagues & leadership group initiated inclusive training for senior people across the organization. It also revamped the summer intern program, in cooperation with a specialized agency, so that 100 per cent of 2021 interns came from under-represented groups.
And the external stakeholders workstream led Pfizer to fund research by the Canadian Race Relations Foundation on health care disparities that under-represented groups may face. It also teamed up with the Legacy of Hope Foundation to help raise awareness about those disparities among Indigenous Peoples.
Pfizer Canada has also set 2023 as its goal to have 30 per cent of its senior leadership coming from underrepresented backgrounds.
“We still have a long way to go,” says Pinnow. “I think the first step to creating a more inclusive culture is just creating awareness.”
This article appeared in the magazine announcing this year's Canada’s Best Diversity Employers winners, published March 8, 2022 in The Globe and Mail. This article was prepared with the financial support of the employer, which reviewed but did not write its contents.
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