IN THE context of Black History Month, GSK’s Omar Ahmed shares his experience as an employee and how it motivated him to create the GSK EMBRACE Employee Resource Group (ERG) to help attract, retain and develop Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) employees, and encourage colleagues to be more comfortable talking about race in the workplace.
GSK is a science led global healthcare company employing over 100,000 people in over 150 countries. GSK has 3 global businesses that research, develop and manufacture innovative pharmaceutical medicines, vaccines and consumer healthcare products. Its goal is to be one of the world’s most innovative, best performing and trusted healthcare companies.
GSK’s values and expectations are at the heart of everything it does and helps defi ne its culture – so that together it can deliver extraordinary things for its patients and consumers and make GSK a brilliant place to work.
Everyone at GSK is focused on three priorities – Innovation, Performance and Trust. Diversity and inclusion are high on the agenda at GSK and there are 13 Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) that facilitate this.
At the close of UK Black History Month, GSK shares information about its BAME Employee Resource group EMBRACE, and how they are supporting the journey to be an inclusive employer of choice.
EMBRACE is an ERG that is employee-led and focused on Black, Asian, and Minority Ethnic (BAME) diversity. EMBRACE’s high-level vision is to support GSK in becoming racially, ethnically and culturally diverse at every level. launched in November 2017, they have members in ten countries, across four continents and are growing.
The current focus for EMBRACE is on senior leader engagement, culture, talent and development, and highlighting GSK opportunities to improve BAME employee recruitment, progression and retention.
EMBRACE also supports outreach and community engagement efforts such as sponsoring GSK’s participation in events like Your Future Your Ambition; to inspire young people (7 – 23 years) from disadvantaged background to pursue STEM careers, and recently invited Sandra Kerr OBE, Race Director at BITC, to deliver her talk “Let’s Talk about Race” to highlight BAME challenges in the workplace. EMBRACE maintains connections externally with similar groups from other companies through The Network of Networks (TNON) BAME / Multicultural chapter).
EMBRACE founder – Omar Ahmed:
Leading the way for EMBRACE
Could you tell us more about your role at GSK?
I am a Product Transfer and New Product Introduction Manager in Consumer Healthcare Supply Chain, leading and managing new product introductions, de-risking and cost saving initiatives at a major GSK Oral Health site. I am also the co-lead of our EMBRACE Employee resource group and sit on and sits on the Global Ethnicity council, working alongside employees, Senior business leader and Executive board members to create an environment where people of BAME background, based on values & performance, succeed at the most senior levels of the business, as they deliver against GSK’s strategic priorities. A platform for cross-company collaboration with network leaders from over 60 organisations, across FTSE companies, to share challenges and best practice.
What made you want to join GSK?
I joined GSK because I believe in ‘why’ we do what we do. We are dedicated to improving the quality of human life by enabling people to do more, feel better and live longer. Having grown up in East Africa, I personally understand the impact diseases have on families, and at times the difference between life and death is the ability to access the required medicine. I suffered from malaria as a child and I was blessed to have a family that had the means to provide the necessary treatment. I wanted to work for a company that is making a positive impact to life.
What motivated you to start an Employee Resource Group?
I created EMBRACE to educate and drive visibility, awareness and promote understanding of the challenges faced by people like me, who identify as Black, Asian or Minority Ethnic. “EMBRACE’s goal is to partner across GSK to create a diverse, inclusive and comfortable environment that empowers BAME employees to reach their full potential, be their authentic selves and contribute fully to delivery of GSK’s Innovation, Performance and Trust strategic priorities.”
Why is having an inclusive environment so important to you? “Diversity is being asked to the party; Inclusion is being invited to dance”.
This quote from Verna Myers, author and VP, Inclusion Strategy at Netflix, particularly resonates with me as I have been in situations, over the course of my career, where I am the only person of colour in a meeting or at a site. Having an inclusive environment helps all our colleagues always feel included, confident in development discussions, career goals, and get the support they need to perform at their best.
What does success for EMBRACE look like?
EMBRACE is in its formative years, success is providing a forum and environment for education and engagement to enable open and honest conversation around challenges faced by individuals from a BAME background, having clear actionable steps on how GSK can have representation at all levels, and be an inclusive employer of choice.
How can GSK employees join EMBRACE?
Once you secure a role and start working at GSK, if you are based in the UK you can join the EMBRACE and other ERGs on day 1. EMBRACE is open to all employees of all ethnicities, there are a lot of opportunities for everyone to get involved.
How can I join GSK?
GSK has opportunities available, whatever stage you are at in your career journey. Whether a school leaver, undergraduate, graduate or experienced individual have a look at GSK’s career pages to find out more.
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