Bristol Myers Squibb partners with HBCUs to attract Black students to pharma careers

Bristol Myers Squibb
Bristol Myers Squibb's "Tomorrow’s Innovator” program will pilot career development efforts at black universities over the next five years. (Bristol Myers Squibb)

Bristol Myers Squibb is putting out the welcome mat for young Black college students—and potential pharma industry job candidates.

With new partnerships at five historically black colleges and universities, BMS’ goal is to be intentional in attracting Black students to pharma across a variety of roles from science and sales to human resources and marketing.

While Black people in the U.S. account for about 13% of the population, they make up only about 7% of pharma companies’ total workforce and 3% of its executive teams.

“When I talk to many Black colleagues at BMS as well as out in the industry, many of us were not intentional about being in this industry,” Shamika Williams, senior director of strategy and marketing for the HBCU initiative said. BMS wants to change that with the new program.

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Dubbed the “Tomorrow’s Innovator” program, the five historically black universities—Howard University, Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University, Morgan State University, North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University and University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff—will pilot efforts and develop programs with BMS over the next five years.

Specific programs under Tomorrow’s Innovators are still under development, but Williams anticipates future leadership exchanges, enhanced recruitment activities and broader detailing of the career possibilities in pharma.

“Many of us in the industry at the director level or higher didn’t have people prior to us to show the pathway to the industry,” she said. “Even for those who are in STEM programs, they’re not always clear what they can do with a STEM background.”

RELATED: BMS earmarks $100M of its $300M equity pledge for diverse clinical trial investigators

Last year, BMS and BMS Foundation jointly agreed to spend $300 million to address health inequities. With that commitment, BMS' goal was to hire more people of color, increase clinical trial diversity, raise disease awareness and improve healthcare access in underserved populations.

Williams noted a recent example at the Essence Festival where BMS participated on topics including multiple myeloma, cancer screening and diversity in clinical trials to "ensure we are engaging the Black community in the right way, in the most authentic way and in the most transparent way possible."