In one of Amos Brown’s recent columns, he expressed concerns about Eli Lilly and Company’s corporate reorganization.
He suggested we need to watch closely to make sure Lilly does not lose sight of its longstanding focus on diversity. I appreciate him raising this critical issue.
At Lilly, we frequently refer to our efforts on diversity or inclusion as that of a journey – rather than a destination. It’s fair to say that, even before the idea of diversity became mainstream in business practices, the concept was important to Lilly leadership. And as they were in many other ways, members of the Lilly family were pioneers on this journey.
In 1948, J.K. Lilly Jr., Colonel Eli Lilly’s grandson, proposed a hiring focus on African-Americans to make sure that their representation in the Lilly workforce was at least equal to residential statistics of Marion County, Indiana, which was 12 percent at the time. To say the least, that was not mainstream thinking 60 years ago.
Those of us responsible for Lilly today have been dealt a pretty good hand where the company’s values are concerned. Clearly, the principles Lilly still lives by have a long and strong foundation in our company.
To Amos Brown’s concerns, I believe that it’s especially important at times like these that we ground ourselves in those very core values that have guided us for more than 130 years. These Lilly ideals have contributed to our past business success and will continue to guide our future decisions.
John Lechleiter, Lilly’s chairman and CEO and my boss, has made it clear to all of us that, in this time of change, our focus on diversity is “non-negotiable.”
Not only is promoting diversity the right thing to do, it’s also a business imperative. Our corporate vision is to deliver improved individual patient outcomes. Diversity is a critical part of that vision – it complements and enables individually tailored medicines and impacts our ability to deliver innovation.
By creating an inclusive culture, we benefit from each employee’s talents, energy, and ideas. And at Lilly, we turn ideas into medicines that save or improve lives. Every patient is depending on us to get diversity right.
As we guide Lilly through another critical juncture in the company’s history, it is vital that we reflect on the many ways our commitment to diversity has made us stronger. For generations, Lilly employees have sustained a culture that values excellence, integrity, and respect for people. A new operating structure must reinforce that path.
Bart Peterson is senior vice president of Corporate Affairs and Communications at Eli Lilly.