Diversity, Equity & Inclusion: Closing the Gender Pay Gap and Driving an Inclusive Culture at Pfizer

Chris Andrew
By Chris Andrew

At the beginning of 2021, we held the first in our series of webinars. In a thought-provoking start to the season, Katie and I spoke to one of our long-standing clients, Pfizer, about their emphasis on equity, inclusion and diversity at work. Leading the conversation were Peter Collins, Senior Manager of Global Health and Social Impact and Dagmar Albers, Pfizer’s Diversity and Inclusion Lead in the UK. 

The following article contains key takeaways about inspiring an inclusive culture, along with the critical role employee communication plays in creating a better workplace for all. Please do take a read and share your own insights. 

Alternatively, if you’d like the full, immersive webinar experience, just click here to watch our discussion. The areas explored include: 

  • The benefits of having an equitable, inclusive and diverse workplace culture.
  • The importance of closing the gender pay gap.
  • Colleague Resource Groups and their role in driving meaningful change.
  • How to ensure that all colleagues feel accountable for workplace change and culture.

Key learnings from Pfizer’s journey towards a more inclusive culture. 

Purpose, inclusion and closing the gender pay gap at Pfizer

As a people and intelligence business, Pfizer keep their purpose – breakthroughs that change patients’ lives - at the forefront of everything they do. ‘To deliver our purpose, we need innovation, diversity of thought and an inclusive culture that supports performance,’ says Peter.

There’s widespread agreement for those aims across the organisation. In a survey carried out last year, 98% of colleagues said that it was important to them, personally, to have a diverse and inclusive workplace culture.

Closing the gender pay gap is a key aspect of this. In 2019, Pfizer decided the issue was so fundamental it should be given a dedicated person to take the lead.

The risk with that approach was that putting one person at the helm might take accountability away from everyone else. How could Pfizer ensure that colleagues would take ownership for closing the gender pay gap - and for embracing diversity and inclusion more broadly?

Here are some of the ways Pfizer has answered that question, inspired an inclusive culture and used employee communications to create a better workplace for all...

Providing a consistent platform for D&I messaging

Pfizer doesn’t have a centrally determined diversity and inclusion strategy. Instead, they have grassroots Colleague Resource Groups (CRG). These encourage and seek change on issues including gender, ethnicity and age. 

Three years ago, Caburn Hope worked with Pfizer to create a communications framework called #ThinkAgainActNow. Its remit was to help channel the key objectives and messages from each CRG. This consistency has helped drive awareness of Pfizer’s commitment to an inclusive workplace. It’s also provided a strong springboard for communication around the gender pay gap. 

‘Colleagues know when we’re talking about diversity and inclusion,’ says Peter. ‘That means they can relate to the overarching drive, even if they don’t relate to a particular CRG or individual campaign.’

Drawing on authentic leadership

Workplace culture is heavily influenced by the leadership. At Pfizer, both the top-down and bottom-up commitment to diversity and inclusion is real. 

‘Our global CEO Albert Bourla put out an emotive message about why we must remember the Holocaust and Holocaust survivors,’ says Peter. ‘He also recently wrote a really powerful message about the George Floyd murder and its connection to the Black Lives Matter movement.’

The authenticity of that leadership commitment translates into time and budget given to diversity and inclusion. 

‘The leadership have made closing the gender pay gap a standing item on the HR and UK board,’ says Dagmar. ‘I always have time to speak – even during times like now, with so much going on. Plus, our leaders are super role models. They sign up for the workshops. They encourage their teams to take the workshops. They support them to be champions. They’re supportive and they allow every single employee to really be part of the change.’ 

Thinking about all colleagues

At Pfizer, one key message is integral to diversity and inclusion communication: A truly diverse workplace benefits everybody. That message is central to the work on closing the gender pay gap. 

‘When it came to closing the gender pay gap, my starting point was, what do we want to achieve?’ says Dagmar. ‘The purpose of the work is to achieve equity, equality and gender parity. But what does that look like for all colleagues?’  

Dagmar began by gathering insights: looking at the strategy that had already been developed, taking recommendations from experts and, of even greater importance, talking to a lot of colleagues inside Pfizer. 

She took three months to think about strategy. Then she recommended five clear initiatives that would benefit every colleague: 

  • Ensuring recruitment diversity
  • Making flexible working really work
  • Career support
  • Returning from long-term absence
  • Family-friendly practices throughout people’s working lives.

‘Whatever we do is for everyone,’ says Dagmar. ‘No matter what their age, gender or background. And, to support that, we’re very careful with language. We make sure that our language is inclusive.’

Giving people ownership of campaigns

From the start, Dagmar’s purpose and strategy were driven by colleague feedback. That approach remains at the heart of her work. 

‘Don’t be too fixed on your ideas, listen to other people! Active listening is one of the factors that lead to success,’ says Dagmar. ‘I’m a really big fan of the test, learn, adapt approach. It means you give colleagues a lot of freedom to try things out. 

‘Here’s an example. With the career support initiative, we wanted to build an app – a navigation tool that uses a series of questions to help you figure out what you want from your career. So, we made a mock-up and showed it to lots of colleagues. 

‘We got feedback and knew that, yes, this was something that was wanted. We kept trying things and the feedback helped us to get better. And seeing feedback being incorporated helped gain colleague buy-in.’

Dagmar is emphatic about the need to give colleagues ownership of what’s going on:

  • Use the internal networking site, Yammer, to encourage peer-to-peer conversation and posts.
  • Include a call to action on all employee communications. This ensures that colleagues know what’s happening and what they can do to support the activity. Those practical, concrete ways to get involved help to build engagement.
  • Sign people up as Champions. ‘Put in the effort to train colleagues and enable them to be really good facilitators,’ says Dagmar. ‘We have 80 colleagues across the organisation doing this, with a champion community where they exchange tips and tricks. I started running self-advocacy workshops in February. By March, five people had come forward to say they would love to deliver these workshops. That really shows the levels of engagement and satisfaction.’

Using metrics to measure and communicate success 

Building a metrics framework for any piece of work helps you to think about:

  • The purpose of the work.
  • What you need to do to make it a success.
  • What the risks are.
  • What you can do to mitigate those risks.

‘Once I had my strategy, the first thing I did was to build a metrics dashboard so that I could measure the milestone key performance indicators,’ says Dagmar. ‘That helps me to measure progress and makes it much easier to talk about the success of the initiatives. I can give specifics about how many colleagues are visiting the microsite or taking the workshops.’

Those statistics are meaningful. They create energy behind the work and provoke interest from even more colleagues. 

Making campaigns look appealing

Eye-catching, attractive design communicates a clear message: the people who created this care about what they’re doing. ‘If you show people that you care, they start to care, too,’ says Dagmar. 

‘For me, one of our clever moves was to give each of the initiatives their own colour. So, flexible working is the brightest green you can imagine. In all our internal communications about flexible working, we use this green.

‘One example is the Team Pact workshop. These are workshops in which every member of a team builds a strategy together to make flexible working successful for them. How do they create the conditions in which they can work at their full potential and have a good work/life balance?

‘Once a team has made a Team Pact, they send out a bright green tile saying, We made our pact. Those tiles created curiosity. People started asking, ‘What’s happening?’ It creates peer pressure. Word starts to spread. If there’s a manager who’s reluctant to get involved, but the whole team is saying it’s something they want to do, they can’t just sit there and say no. So, the posts on Yammer create a domino effect. 

‘We’ve now done 62 Team Pact workshops with 938 colleagues: more than a third of our UK workforce. That shows the momentum!’

Many thanks to Peter and Dagmar for sharing their insights and thank you for reading. Do stay tuned for updates: our next webinar is coming soon. 

Want to maximise the impact of your employee comms?  Talk to us, today.

Chris Andrew
By Chris Andrew