In the US, it is illegal to discriminate against someone based on the following: Age, Disability, Genetic Information, National Origin, Pregnancy, Race/Color, Religion, Sex, or sexual orientation. (eeoc.gov) These protections have been a great advancement in protecting each and everyone one of us in the workplace. But what else does diversity look like? It could be your body type. As a female, culture indoctrinates that we have too much of something or not enough of the other and we go to great lengths at times to “correct our flaws.” Being neurotypical or neurodivergent can also prove challenging. Having two children with ADHD, they can be treated differently than their peers and for no particular reason. What about chronic illnesses? We have a strong history of migraines and auto-immune diseases in my family: does that make us less? I think not. What about “D,” or doctoral-type discrimination? Have you experienced this?
Building equity and equality in our day-to-day lives, personally and professionally, is imperative for MSLs. As a nurse, I see creating an environment of anti-discrimination as part of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.
If one feels discriminated against, this prohibits them from having their basic needs met (green bar.) If this isn’t met, how can we expect them to grow and thrive professionally, not just survive? I would offer that this basic level of safety and security, which leads to equity and equality, is necessary for all of us. It would positively impact the company relationships within itself, but also with external customers. An MSL is not going to feel safe in the field when they’re discriminated against and their potential won’t be met
The same applies to study designs. How do we build equity and equality into our study designs so that we are representing the population well? The study population should be as diverse as possible on all fronts, as able. Engaging minority populations within the study is also imperative to build trust. We don’t have to look too far in the distance US past, unfortunately, to show how this trust has been breached on too numerous occasions. We need to recognize, own and move forward with humility, that we can and should do better, that it is our most noble task as humans to stand and advocate for those who have been too long silenced.
When choosing a company to work for, I would also consider the following: do they support diversity? Do their policies, procedures, and guidelines support that both in hiring and promotion? Do their actions match their words? This isn’t only important for you, but for the team, you’re joining; inequity for one is inequity for all. This doesn’t apply to internal business, but to how their customers are treated. Equality starts with YOU!
I recognize my privilege in this: a white, married, college-educated woman from a white, middle-class, two-parent household. Just because I may not have personally been discriminated against in the way others have doesn’t make it any less my call to stand with all who are seen as less, whatever the reason. Discrimination will always be here, taking insidious forms not seen until it has already negatively impacted a person, community, or company. The call to action for all of us is to build cultures and companies of anti-oppression, such that when discrimination raises its ugly head to strike, it has nothing to sink its teeth into because we have created systems against it. Please join me in taking up this yolk. The work of many makes the burden light.
Alyson Evans is an Associate Director, Medical Science Liaison at Biohaven Pharmaceuticals. When she’s not busy with work, she enjoys spending time with her husband of 13 years, Ryan, and her 3 children Brendan (11), Abby (8) and Natali (5).