Promoting Gender Diversity at Lilly

Lilly employees from across the globe and all walks of life gathered in Indianapolis on Tuesday for the 2013 Multicultural Summit. The event’s theme, “How Diversity Enhances Innovation,” set the tone for inspiring discussions by several panels and breakout sessions.


The summit started on an encouraging note, as our Chairman and CEO, John Lechleiter, Ph.D., welcomed attendees, having recently returned from medical leave. John discussed the link between diversity and innovation, noting that diversity is “the lens through which we’re able to understand, test ideas, challenge assumptions, and respond to patients’ needs.”

John set a precursor for the rest of the summit's talks, reminding everyone of the importance diversity and culture hold at Lilly. According to John, “diversity should be a source of strength, vitality, and competitive advantage for our company.” To expand on John’s comments, diversity in every capacity is seen as an asset at Lilly, and that is displayed ardently across the globe. One form of diversity that is often overlooked in several cultures is gender inclusion. Some of our executives recognized accomplishments in gender diversity later in Tuesday’s program with our first-ever global diversity and inclusion awards.

The day’s true stand-outs were three affiliates Saudi Arabia, South Korea and Japan which were honored for their outstanding contributions to gender diversity. What impresses me most is that each of these affiliates operates in cultures where gender diversity is oftentimes not seen in the workplace.


For example, Lilly Saudi Arabia has practically transformed its local workforce. Over the last three years, the affiliate transitioned from having no female employees to being a national industry leader in gender diversity. Thirty-two females now work at the Saudi affiliate as medical educators, medical representatives and office based employees, comprising 20 percent of the total workforce.

South Korea is a male dominated society influenced by the Confucianism culture in the past, and the majority of senior positions around the country are still taken by men. Lilly Korea has moved against this cultural norm, focusing on gender equality in the workplace by developing female employees so they may rise to leadership roles in the company. In Korea, 68 percent of Lilly’s operational committee members are women. On top of that, female district sales managers have increased from 9 percent in 2011 to 18 percent in 2012.

Similarly, Lilly Japan took a major step on its diversity journey when it introduced the first phase of its diversity strategy, “Females in Leadership,” in 2004. After a number of actions and successes, Phase 2 began in 2009 with further development of a diversity strategy and vision. Japan has also implemented strong tactics – from establishing a diversity counsel and programs to develop female leaders to child care support for moms and dads – and the results have been industry leading. Lilly is the top company in terms of the number and the percentage of the female sales managers in Japan’s pharmaceutical industry.

Some of these numbers may initially seem small, but they are huge feats of progress in cultures where women are often challenged in the business world. We’re proud of our affiliates and all individuals throughout the Lilly organization who are promoting diversity and inclusion.