The Real Meaning of DEI and Why Companies Need to Unleash Its Power

May 19, 2021

These days, everyone is talking about diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI). Recent events have led to long overdue realizations about the injustices that persist in society, and our individual and collective responsibility to do better. This has always mattered to me deeply in both my professional and personal life.

I’m proud to say that at Klein Hersh, the importance―and intrinsic value―of DEI in the workplace is far from a new concept. And understanding its necessity allows us to help our partners build leadership teams that drive innovation, attract the best talent at every level, and ultimately, shape the future of the pharma/biotech and healthcare industries.

We need to begin by properly defining diversity. There is this broadly assumed position that diversity just means gender or race, which at a base level, it does. But the real power of DEI comes with embracing diversity of thought. You can have the most multicultural-looking team of all time, but if they all went to Harvard, you aren’t achieving different viewpoints. The magic happens when you can harness multiple perspectives―based on background, style, experiences, age and more―to identify strategies, solve challenges and accomplish goals.

Aside from simply being the right thing to do, the numbers speak for themselves. Numerous research studies demonstrate the value of DEI in the workplace. By way of example, the 2020 Diversity Wins report―the third in a series published by global management consulting firm McKinsey & Company―shows the relationship between diversity on executive teams and financial outperformance is stronger than ever.

The analysis finds that companies in the top quartile for gender diversity on executive teams are 25 percent more likely to have above-average profitability than companies in the fourth quartile. In fact, companies with more than 30 percent of women in executive positions outperform companies where this percentage ranges from 10 to 30. The likelihood of outperformance is even higher when it comes to diversity in ethnicity. The top-quartile companies outperformed those in the fourth quartile by 36 percent in profitability.

These findings are echoed in a 2020 article published by Forbes magazine, featuring a collection of statistics citing that revenue increases by 19 percent for organizations with more diverse management teams, and decision-making by diverse teams outperforms that of individuals by 87 percent.

Of course, diversity cannot stand alone. There must also be inclusion. And equity. In addition, for companies committed to DEI, it’s critical to read into the metrics. An overall workforce may be diverse in terms of percentages, but is the leadership team? How about the board of directors? Employees need to see themselves reflected in their leaders and know that opportunity abounds.

My colleagues and I are finding that companies are becoming increasingly more comfortable about having these conversations. And when our clients aren’t initiating the discussion about the role of diversity in their search needs, we are.

If a leadership team skews toward one gender or cultural identity, might they consider how much a different perspective can add to their thought process? If the team skews older, are they missing a younger perspective, or vice versa? Are there essential gaps that should be filled to ensure diversity of thought, and in turn, innovation?

The bottom line is, in every way, companies are significantly more successful when leadership teams are well-rounded.

At Klein Hersh, we’ve always been committed to bringing a diverse slate of candidates to every search. Perhaps what I’m most proud of is the fact that this happens naturally. Our success has enabled us to cultivate relationships with the broadest of audiences across the marketplace and in our individual areas of expertise, and share that access with our clients. Presenting the best possible talent to fill a position, and ensuring a diverse slate of candidates for consideration, are never mutually exclusive.

Of the 176 placements made by Klein Hersh during the first quarter of 2021, 57 of those individuals identify as other than white. Sixty-one are female.

When we look at our averages since 2015, 36 percent of our placements have been female, and 48 percent have been people from diverse backgrounds. There is still much work to do, including within our own organization, but together, we are certainly making progress.

As I mentioned in my opening, DEI not only matters to me on a professional level, but personally as well. For more than a decade, I’ve served as a volunteer with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Montgomery County as a Big Brother and a Board Member. I’ve become intimately familiar with racial, gender and identity inequities in every facet of life. I’ve learned how some individuals can get left behind for all the wrong reasons. And I’ve witnessed the power of adding new perspectives to any and every conversation.

It’s refreshing to see so many companies embrace the importance of DEI in their organizations, and it’s exciting to help in that mission. What I enjoy most about my work is when I know I’ve made a really good match, when I’ve brought someone to the table who will be additive, who will make our partners better technically and culturally. It’s always about delivering that talent.

About the Author

Dan Strauss is the leader of the pharmacovigilance and risk management practice (PVRM) at Klein Hersh International. He and his team successfully partner with clients to hire more than 35 PV executives annually, with an emphasis on safety physicians (MD/DO). Dan is also responsible for building and establishing Klein Hersh’s executive recruitment capabilities in related fields such as epidemiology and biostatistics. Dan joined Klein Hersh in 2010, and has won numerous awards domestically and internationally as one of the most influential and successful recruiters in the PV marketplace.

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About the Author
Dan Strauss is the leader of the pharmacovigilance and risk management practice (PVRM) at Klein Hersh International. Dan and his team successfully partner with clients to hire more than 35 PV executives annually, with an emphasis on safety physicians (MD/DO). He is also responsible for building and establishing Klein Hersh’s executive recruitment capabilities in related fields such as epidemiology and bios