Driven to SucceedDespite the Odds

Eli Lilly and Co. is one of DiversityInc’s 25 Noteworthy Companies


How did Derica W. Rice become one of Eli Lilly and Co.’s highest-ranking Black executives The pharmaceutical giant’s executive vice president of global services and chief financial officer attributes his drive for success and innovation to his modest upbringing in Decatur, Ala.

The first in his family to attend college, Rice strives to make the most of every opportunityand this has stayed with him throughout his 20-year tenure at Lilly, where he has risen from international treasury associate to his current expanded role that includes “redesigning the back-office operations improving efficiencies and, most important, increasing the speed with which we execute new medicines,” he says. “One of the big challenges pharmaceutical companies face today is lack of innovation.”

To help meet this challenge, Rice welcomes the contributions of all. Responsible for also overseeing the company’s procurement, he says, “we make sure we have a very diverse supplier base, from the people we work with on our clinical trials to ad agencies. We also ask ourselves: Do we work with diverse financial institutions Do the big banks that service Lilly have a diversity strategy of their own” As a result of adding diversity-related criteria into Lilly’s RFPs, Rice says vendors have responded positively. (Lilly itself has a supplier-diversity spending goal of more than 10 percent.) Diverse suppliers have also helped Lilly tap into Black and Latino communities to participate in clinical trials.

“If we’re going to bring forth new medicine that means something to each patient who takes it,” says Rice, “then we need to understand what it actually does for each of them.” Rice also sits on the board of directors of Target Corp. (No. 40 in the DiversityInc Top 50) and Clarian Health North and is a member of the Indiana University board of trustees.

Click here to see this article as it originally appeared in the June 2010 issue of DiversityInc magazine.

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