Diversity and inclusion in MedTech: Interview with VP of Quality Management at BD

Article written by Lauren Harris, Director of X4 Life Sciences.

I had the opportunity to speak with Punam Owens, VP of Quality Management at BD to hear her thoughts on what it means to have an inclusive culture, the importance of workplace diversity, attracting and retaining senior female talent and the biggest leadership challenge since Covid-19.

In your experience, do you think it is possible to have a workplace culture that benefits everyone, no matter their age, gender, religion, sexual orientation or ethnicity?

Realistically, today, probably not. As generations move through the workplace this will change in the future. Today, however, unconscious bias based on personal experience, learned behaviour and managing the cultural landscape of the workplace will still negatively impact the rate of culture change we need to see. I think we can get there, but still work to do.

How integral do you think a diverse workforce is to a company’s success?

It’s significant and quite often a huge miss for many organisations who lose out on the diversity of thought by not hiring a diverse workforce. Employees with diverse backgrounds contribute different ideas and perspectives, which creates more disruptive and innovative environments. Deloitte’s research, which included the findings of seven major research studies, showed that I&D enhances innovation by about 20%. A diverse workforce can also help ensure that products or services resonate with customers’ cultures, organizations can also more confidently innovate in global markets.

Do you feel enough is being done in the MedTech industry to attract and retain senior female talent, given that women hold 45% of entry-level positions in MedTech, but just 19% of C-suite roles?

There is always more that can be done. During a recent recruitment, a candidate had all the relevant experience with the exception of c-suite/ executive expertise. The candidate was not hired. In my opinion, the hiring manager missed out on potential.  While the candidate did not meet all the requirements, what did they bring? And how could the experience be harnessed and mentored? I would like to see more risk- based thinking around attracting and developing talent. Really seek out that diversity.

Gender diverse candidates will not always come forward for roles where they do not see a role model. We need to create that space. Provide more opportunity for coaching, mentoring and growth. How will we change the narrative if we hire the same type? People hire people with whom they resonate with. Without a diverse recruitment process to challenge this bias, we will not see the rate of change we need.

How can the medical device industry become more inclusive?

Show how inclusion and diversity is good for business – tangible results.

Too many organisations have grand plans around inclusion and diversity and strive to do better. But it’s the smaller actions which add up to a change in culture. Authentic leadership, accountability and “walking in the shoes” of your workforce will create insights and learnings which will challenge our thinking and display the behaviours you want to see to bring the workforce with you.

What initiatives have you seen that support, promote and expand diverse leadership?

Real authentic leadership. Those who break the rules a little for the greater good! For example, hiring the candidates who are not the “traditional” fit. Challenging hiring practices. Driving a speak up culture. Surround yourself with people who are different to you. Ask questions. Be curious. Be self-aware – assume a different lens and view-point most likely exists.

What has been the biggest leadership challenge since Covid-19 and how have you adapted?

Working remotely and sustaining team dynamics and engagement. Ensuring associates are safe and able to manage their physical and mental health.

The pandemic has however resulted in a huge amount of innovation and we have all found ways doing things differently.  In some respects, it’s been the catalyst needed to drive a growth mindset and a different way of thinking. Many examples of how we have served our customers, managed supply chains, managed recruitment and supported each other.

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