Amid the countless uncertainties of corporate leadership, one truth is inarguable: No matter how brilliant any near-term strategy may be, a company’s culture will always dictate long-term success.
Inclusion and diversity are essential elements of a strong, dynamic culture – one where employees and the business thrive in tandem, driving high-value innovation to meet the needs of a diverse stakeholder base. That’s especially worth noting on an occasion like International Women’s Day.
Certainly my perspective has been shaped by life experiences spanning the globe, where I’ve witnessed talent, energy and potential at every turn. I’m also inspired by my two daughters, both young women now seeking their own opportunities to channel their infinite talent and potential.
Baxter already had a positive reputation for advancing workplace diversity prior to my arrival in late 2015. But a strong culture demands constant cultivation in step with new understanding and expectations. It was instantly my responsibility to accelerate the culture in line with the broader transformation underway across the company. And an effort like this requires engagement on many fronts to ensure it reaches wide and deep.
Corporate governance sets the tone, which is why, as board chairman, I’ve advocated strongly for increased diversity in our board composition. We’ve made four new board appointments since my arrival, three of whom are women (with impeccable credentials). We’ve also focused on advancing the diversity of our entire workforce, including women and underrepresented minorities at all career levels.
We’ve introduced Gender IQ, our new leadership development program, which is bringing heightened awareness to gender differences and how they can be embraced to create a more productive, inclusive environment. Plus we’ve implemented a formal executive sponsorship program to drive the engagement, retention and advancement of top talent women and minorities.
Workplace flexibility is essential to accommodating the wide-ranging needs of an increasingly diverse workforce. We’ve supercharged our global commitment to flexibility through increased communication as well as an emphasis on cloud-based IT tools that make remote productivity and collaboration easier than ever.
We encourage all employees to own their individual commitment by voluntarily signing our “All In(clusive)” workplace pledge. I’ve signed it myself, and have also signed onto PwC’s CEO Action for Diversity & Inclusion pledge, which underscores the role played by large corporations in promoting diversity.
Of course, initiatives are one thing; impact is another. Our annual employee survey continues to show gains in how employees view Baxter’s commitment to an inclusive, diverse workplace. In addition, we recently hired an independent firm to conduct an extensive pay equity study of our U.S. salaried workforce (our single largest employee group), which concluded that there are no significant pay differences among men, women and ethnic minorities within the surveyed population.
Progress is also reflected in our external recognition. Baxter has lately been acknowledged by Working Mother magazine, the Human Rights Campaign, Forbes magazine, Diversity Best Practices and the National Association of Female Executives, among other national, regional and local organizations.
Whatever positive momentum we’ve achieved has been powered by the shared commitment of employees across the company and around the world. I especially want to acknowledge the impact of our eight business resources groups, which spearhead networking, advocacy and action for key employee constituencies in the U.S. and globally.
We still have so much to do; but how could it be otherwise? The values and ideals of International Women’s Day remind us that this is an ongoing journey, not a march to a fixed destination. Even the most ambitious achievements in this space will never be good enough for long, as our knowledge and aspirations only grow. But we will keep advancing, knowing that all our stakeholders win as inclusion and diversity become more deeply ingrained in the fabric that defines Baxter, fueling our ability to deliver on our ultimate Mission: Save and Sustain Lives.
—Joe Almeida, Chairman and CEO