Monday, March 24, 2008

Obama and Pharma: A More Perfect Union

Sorry. This post is not about what will happen to the profits of the pharmaceutical industry should Barack Obama become president. It's about Obama's speech on race and how it relates to diversity and racial issues in the pharmaceutical industry.

Obama spoke about discrimination:
"But for all those who scratched and clawed their way to get a piece of the American Dream, there were many who didn't make it - those who were ultimately defeated, in one way or another, by discrimination."
Is there discrimination in the pharmaceutical industry? Maybe no more than any other industry, but I see some troubling signs: "Are Some Drug Companies Promoting a Racist Workplace Culture?" and "Why are so many blacks leaving Centocor?" (a post on Cafe Pharma -- warning: racist and hateful remarks) and "Lily-White Lilly. Homophobic and Sexist Too?"

But Obama's message was also one of hope, especially in young people:
"This union may never be perfect, but generation after generation has shown that it can always be perfected. And today, whenever I find myself feeling doubtful or cynical about this possibility, what gives me the most hope is the next generation - the young people whose attitudes and beliefs and openness to change have already made history in this election."


"The fact is that the comments that have been made and the issues that have surfaced over the last few weeks reflect the complexities of race in this country that we've never really worked through - a part of our union that we have yet to perfect. And if we walk away now, if we simply retreat into our respective corners, we will never be able to come together and solve challenges like health care, or education, or the need to find good jobs for every American."
So instead of criticizing the pharma industry over racist incidents, which may be more common than we think, I think we should "work through" the complexities and solve the challenges in a positive way.

A few people have discussed the need to offer young people of color who are interested in working in the pharmaceutical industry positive role models through the stories of people who have "made it." And the people of color who have made it should not only tell their stories, but also help mentor young people however they can.

I know that there are people out there that are already doing this. Perhaps Obama's speech will encourage them to come forward and not feel cynical or doubtful, but pass their learnings on to the next generation with the hope that it will make a more perfect union.

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