Why diversity matters

On World Day for Cultural Diversity for Dialogue and Development 2018 (21 May), Aman Khera, a member of TOPRA’s Diversity Committee, explores diversity and inclusion in regulatory affairs as a driver for advancing healthcare

Posted on 21/05/2018

TOPRA is committed to diversity and inclusion through its own Diversity Committee. We are a signatory to the Science Council’s Diversity Declaration, putting diversity at the heart of what TOPRA does as an organisation. 

Diversity and inclusion are being talked about within the workplace more than ever, especially in the media, having been established as key drivers of organisational innovation and positive financial performance. Diversity and inclusion can drive innovation in the healthcare industry. As our industry evolves with new regulations and new technological advancements, diversity and inclusion in teams, organisations and agencies will be key drivers for advancing healthcare.

However, it is important to note that diversity and inclusion are not the same. Diversity represents the presence of differences, whether they are physical, cognitive, socioeconomic, gender based, race based, etc. Inclusion is the behaviours that welcome and embrace diversity, the intentional and deliberate process of leveraging that diversity for the benefit of a team and to drive innovation.

Regardless of the company or agency you work in, having a diverse team is advantageous to you in your everyday work and the success you have in your teams and negotiations. It is helpful to be self-aware of your own biases. Everyone has unconscious biases – mental shortcuts we take unknowingly based on social norms and stereotypes. The brain is programmed to make these shortcuts, so we can process information quickly, but this does not always work to our benefit. Our unconscious biases also tend to result in unknown prejudices, some of which have the potential to stunt our growth by stemming the flow of new and challenging ideas. It may be uncomfortable to grapple with some of the things that come up in truly diverse conversations, but creating an environment where ideas are allowed to clash is a critical part of building a truly innovative culture.

Industry and regulatory agencies are collaborating more closely around the technological and scientific advances to personalise medicine and collect patient input on potential treatments. Regulatory professionals are at the forefront of these collaborations, so it pays well to have diverse conversations that only occur through diverse teams. As industry and regulatory agencies evolve and adapt with artificial intelligence initiatives, the personal approach is going to matter. 

Personal soft skills for a regulatory professional are going to be just as important as the technology that will help revolutionise drug and device development. And, for that reason, diversity and inclusion cannot be ignored.