Alexion hires first chief diversity officer, following pharma peers and social sentiment

Alexion Pharmaceuticals named its first chief diversity officer as the rare disease specialist looks to cultivate diversity and inclusion. Alexion joins a majority of Big Pharma with C-level execs focused on diversity, particularly relevant in the current social climate—and as white men still dominate top positions across the industry.

Uzair Qadeer will fill the role, moving from head of enterprise partnerships at Alexion. He previously worked at Deloitte’s Human Capital consulting practice and Bristol Myers Squibb.

“Magnetizing and incubating diverse talent will allow us to harness diverse insights that fuel innovation and create value for the patients we serve,” Qadeer said in a news release.

Alexion’s move is especially germaine as social movements such as Black Lives Matter and Me Too establish new norms and consumer expectations.

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Russell Reynolds management consulting firm last year reported that 80% of the top 25 publicly traded pharma companies have chief diversity officers or the equivalent. Pharma diversity officers tend to be more experienced in general as well, with 45% who held similar positions in the past versus 26% of all S&P 500 diversity officers.

“Investing in diversity and inclusion (D&I) makes sense for drug manufacturers. A growing body of research supports the notion that the combination of inclusive leadership and diverse teams produce higher levels of innovation,” said Sean Dineen, senior member of Russell’s leadership and succession practice, in a news post about the results.

Indeed, diversity officers at drug companies lead robust industry efforts to court diverse talent. Pfizer uses real scientists in its ongoing diversity recruiting campaign as part of its “Driven to Discover” effort.

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And yet part of the reason for the focus on hiring and promoting diversity is that there is plenty of work to be done in the industry. Biopharma workforces lag when it comes to diversity and inclusion—particularly among top executives and board members.

Valuate Health Consultancy last year reported that the top pharma 50 lands just in the middle for diversity and inclusion when benchmarked against the Fortune 500.

“There are striking differences in the levels of gender and ethnic diversity among boards and executive committees alike,” it noted.