DNA stands for Diversity Network Associations
The acronym DNA stands for Diversity Network Associations. The 17 groups represent the diversity within the workforce, such as “Genentech Women Professionals” or “African Americans in Biotechnology.”
While deoxyribonucleic acid, or DNA, is at the core of all created life, recombinant DNA technology was the groundbreaking technology at the origin of Genentech, one of the first biotech companies in the world, founded in 1976. In order to stress the importance of this “molecule of life” in fulfilling the company’s mission, even the postal address of Genentech HQ in South San Francisco was changed to One DNA Way years ago.
But there’s yet another DNA, namely the Diversity Network Association’s (DNA). It is this special “kid on the DNA block” which helps the company’s Diversity & Inclusion philosophy come to life on a daily basis. This DNA places a high value on leveraging a diverse workforce in the framework of an inclusive culture, where different perspectives are encouraged and people are always treated with respect no matter where they come from. As Monica L. Poindexter, director, Corporate Diversity & Inclusion, puts it: “We’re creating a culture where difference is valued and sought after. And by looking at the broadest dimensions of diversity, we’re driving innovation and leading the industry in solving some of the most challenging problems in medicine.”
From social club to strategic resource
Generally it is true that the DNA groups have evolved from grassroots clubs of a more social nature to become strategic employee resource groups working on business initiatives and community partnerships.
It all started in the early 1990s when the African Americans in Biotechnology (AAIB), the first DNA group ever, was formed. Lisa Tealer, who chairs the Diversity Council at Genentech, explains: “The AAIB was initially started by a handful of employees as a group to support one another, and from there it broadened to other areas like recruitment, leadership development, and community outreach. Given the AAIB’s evolved focus, they developed a proposal requesting company support. Since then we’ve had a combination of employees and the company jointly supporting the formation of DNA groups.”
One good example of such a community effort is the so-called Ground Hog Job shadow day, a national program that exposes high school students to diverse jobs in the company. Genentech has been active in this program at South San Francisco for the last 15 years. Members from all DNA groups volunteer to organize the event, and to host students on the day of the event.
From Leadership Summit to Pride Parade
Genentech Women Professionals (GWP) aims to foster an engaged workforce with women well represented at all levels. GWP’s big annual event is the Women’s Leadership Summit, where company officers and more than 400 senior female leaders network and spend a day focusing on professional development and current workplace and leadership topics. GWP was founded five years ago and has since grown by a whopping 400 percent. It currently is the largest DNA group, representing more than a third of all the female employees at the company.
Genentech has also participated in San Francisco’s Gay Pride Parade for the last eight years. This year was the third year the company served as a corporate sponsor. Officers and senior leaders from across Genentech and Roche participated in the parade along with members from the Genentech Out & Equal (GO&E) DNA group, together with family and friends, totaling more than 500 people.
Dustin Ensign, a member of GO&E, emphasizes: “One thing we did different this year was to make an effort to incorporate patients into our float with a huge poster featuring four of our patients so people would know about the important work we do. People there know that we’re proud of who we are, and we want them to know that we’re also proud of what we do.”
Since 2006, the DNA network has more than doubled in size, going from 8 to 17 groups to date. And it is still growing; in fact, two new DNA groups are just forming, namely the GVDT (Genentech Veterans Diversity Team) in South San Francisco but also the gSpectrum group (People with Disabilities).
New opportunities and challenges naturally come with this scale of growth, necessitating changes in the day-to-day operations and DNA group governance model. Lisa summarizes a few key efforts as follows: “Earlier this year we began evolving the DNA groups even further. Now that the integration is fairly complete, we need to examine the effectiveness of the DNA groups and look at creating a sustainable model that can support growth of these groups and changes in the organization. All measures we will take will have to serve the creation of greater alignment with the business, increase employee engagement, and develop leaders.”
The DNA journey continues to be exciting, holding in store fascinating new evolutions in the years ahead.