Severin Schwan talks with colleague Yvette Miata Petersen* on diversity and inclusion – and says those who won’t embrace diversity do not belong at Roche.
Severin, we recently had an informal discussion, and I shared a couple of the experiences I've had – being a Black woman, a minority, both in and out of the workplace. What does diversity and inclusion mean to you, and Roche?
Good to talk to you again, Yvette. Diversity and inclusion, or D&I, is absolutely essential for us. At Roche, it's all about innovation, developing new creative solutions to improve healthcare. And I truly believe that diversity enhances innovation. Because if we have different backgrounds, if we have different experiences, that creates a diversity of thinking, that creates the different perspectives which are so fundamental to coming up with creative solutions.
And I think beyond that, diversity helps us to grow as individuals and as societies. It makes society so much richer, so much more exciting and fulfilling!
What are you thinking when you use the word “diversity?”
Diversity is that we welcome people, no matter what race, gender, religion or sexual orientation they have. We see it as something which makes us stronger.
Diversity is an opportunity, and people who are not embracing diversity, they simply don't belong to this company. We do not tolerate discrimination.
At Roche we have one ambition that's focused on diversity. How are we going to get there?
Diversity for me is not an addition to our objectives, or an afterthought, but part of who we are, how we do our business and what we want to accomplish. I have spent my professional career at Roche and have seen the power of a truly diverse, inclusive workforce – however, I’m sure there is certainly more that we can do. And, importantly, I think it's a shared responsibility. We all can influence this. I have a responsibility here, but everybody at Roche has a responsibility to do more.
For us to really make traction with D&I, we're going to have to put it all on the table. A lot of colleagues shared with me that they find it a difficult topic to address. People have said to me: “I don't know what to refer to you as. Can I call you Black, Afro-American, American?” And I say to them: “Just ask me!” So I think asking helps eliminate some of that fear.
Yes, I fully agree. No doubt, whenever something is unknown, you're just more careful. There is also this element that you don't want to hurt people's feelings, and then you are too careful and perhaps tend to avoid a discussion. This would be a pity, because conversations are so powerful for all of us. When you have these personal conversations in areas where you have little knowledge or experience, then you learn.
And you’re absolutely right – if you’re not sure, just ask! Most valuable to me are open, respectful and constructive dialogues – such as the one we just had!
*Yvette Miata Petersen is Chief of Staff and Transformational Lead, Pharma Research and Early Development. This is an excerpt from a recent conversation with Severin Schwan.
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