George Floyd. George Floyd. George Floyd. Say it once, say it again, say it louder. Like so many, I am heartbroken, angry, horrified by his murder.
How can something like this happen in 2020? How can a human being have his life stolen from him, almost nonchalantly, by an officer of the law? Yet, even with a crowd of onlookers, including other police officers, and despite pleas of “I can’t breathe,” George Floyd was silenced forever on May 25 at the age of 46. Why? Because he was black.
I cried. I talked to my young daughters about racism, privilege and the need for systemic change, as I have many times before. However, this time was different. I posted my outrage on social media, including on my company’s social channels. Then I contributed money. Yet that almost made me feel worse—money helps, but I realized I’m in a position to financially contribute because I have been given opportunity my entire life. Why? Because I am white.
So many black individuals don’t have access to a decent education, let alone private schools, or great job offers, or mentors who push you upwards. Giving words and money was not enough, I decided to take action to bridge this opportunity gap in a way that’s possible because I’m an executive.
Our life science communications company, CanaleComm, is not a massive entity like Ben and Jerry’s, Softbank or Merck, who like many others are launching efforts I applaud. But even we can have an impact. We can all have an impact.
For many years, I’ve lamented the lack of diversity in the biotech industry—and when I say lack of diversity, I mean lack of racial minorities, notably black people. This disparity similarly exists in the life science communications field. Access to opportunity (or lack thereof) no doubt plays a role.
That’s why CanaleComm is today launching the “BE in Biotech Internship Program @CanaleComm.” Black Empowerment. Black Education. Black Equity. BE in Biotech.
We will provide an avenue for disenfranchised people of color to learn about a new industry that abounds with high-paying jobs and make valuable new connections to help fortify their careers.
We have had many interns over the years, several of whom became long-term employees or went on to lead impressive careers. But we are going about this program differently, recognizing that past tactics for recruiting have favored those who benefit from privilege.
We will continue to post the internship openings at our typical universities, but we will try harder and post and engage in places we have not targeted before such as black student associations. We will also reach out to city and community colleges, career pathway programs and other places where we’re likely to find talent that could easily be overlooked.
Likewise, we won’t require a degree. Rather, we will focus on motivation, passion, inquisition and a desire to learn. And most importantly, we will have a focus on people of color who have limited opportunities to start and grow a career.
Through our new program, CanaleComm will offer at least three paid internships – six months each – within our public relations team, creative team and finance team. I consider one of my most important roles at CanaleComm to be chief culture officer. Diversity is Vitality is one of our company values. But, are we ready for students of color? Do we have a welcoming environment? To ensure the answer is yes, we will provide cultural awareness trainings to our entire team.
As we embark on this new program, we do so with the awareness that understanding and being an effective ally is key to eradicating systemic racism in our industry. We all need to work with diligence and intention to install equity within our companies, our industry and our communities to truly make a difference. Our directives from this moment forward must revolve around empathy, compassion, and a willingness and openness to learn. As we provide the chairs at the table, we must also provide the ongoing support that enables people to stay with us and grow. Diversity, access, equity and inclusion lead our way forward.
George Floyd’s senseless death is a breaking point. We’ve had enough, and it’s time for change. If you’ve benefited from opportunity and are in a position to bridge the gap for even one person, this is your time, too. I am calling on other companies in the biotech industry to take action in any way you can. Please feel free to duplicate this program – use the name, use the content, use the logo and creative materials with your company name (we’ll even donate our time to add your name and colors if needed).
This is just the beginning and we are very aware we have a lot of knowledge to acquire. As we continue to grow with the industry and these young people are given a chance to showcase their abilities, we hope to be able to increase these opportunities to other underrepresented communities of color. We will share our effort and learnings, and collectively we can take a stand to address the continuing results of racial prejudice in this country.
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