By Carolynn Johnson and Sheryl Estrada
Women of Color in Pharma (WOCIP) hosted its first annual national conference in Princeton, N.J., on Nov. 6. As keynote speaker, Wanda Bryant Hope, chief diversity officer for Johnson & Johnson (No. 5 on the DiversityInc Top 50 Companies list), encouraged the almost 300 women in attendance to be industry leaders.
Hope said they could be an “everyday hero” by preparing the next generation.
“We have a responsibility as women of color to really bring forth this next generation — mentoring, sponsoring,” she said. “Reaching down, not only to other levels of our organization, but to kids that are in school, in high school, in college, and helping to bring them into this industry.”
Women are influencers or “chief medical officers” of families and make important decisions when it comes to healthcare, she said.
“A study recently done by the Center for Talent Innovation showed us that women are, in fact, the chief medical officers of our families,” Hope explained, “and are making more than 90 percent of the decisions for ourselves and those under the age of 18, and making more than 55 percent of all healthcare decisions that happen in this country.”
Hope also offered statistics revealing that “by the year 2047, people that look like us will be the majority in this country. And we’re expected to grow by 2050 to a population of about 193 million people.”
“With that size comes enormous purchasing power,” she said.
However, the healthcare industry has not yet shifted its focus.
“You would think that with that growing size and that enormous purchasing power that our healthcare industry would be hyper-focused on people of color and on women. Yet, we are not.
“I’m going to highlight a joint commissions report that was published in April 2015. People of color receive significantly less cardiovascular interventions, significantly less renal transplants, than white people in this country.
“Black women and Hispanic women battling breast cancer are diagnosed at significantly later stages of cancer. We are 40 percent more likely to receive treatments that are not in line with guidelines and, we know, die at a higher rate than white women from breast cancer.
“Women and people of color receive less pain medication than white men in this country. And, people of color are readily blamed for being passive about their healthcare and leading the poor healthcare decisions in this country. This is a national crisis.”
She told the members of WOCIP, an organization that fosters the development of Black and Latina women in the pharmaceutical industry, they could make a difference.
“We can make a significant impact in our industry just by telling our own stories and educating our companies around the differences that we bring to the table. That can help us, all of us, to really develop innovative solutions that can truly start to have an impact on these healthcare disparities.
“If we think back to my mom and her generation, they did whatever was necessary to create a better world for all of us. And we have the opportunity to use our power, our influence, in our everyday jobs.”
Hope shares her moving experience at the National Museum of African American History and Culture.
Hope said that it was the activism of her mother, Tillie Bing Bryant, as a college student in South Carolina during the civil rights movement that inspired her current career.
“I grew up learning about the value of fairness and equality and diversity and inclusion in our lives in our neighborhoods, in our society as a whole,” she said.
She added that the lessons carried over into her business life, helping her to become successful. Hope also thanked her mother.
“I am really proud of my mom, who’s here with me today,” she said, surprising the audience.
“I just want to say thank you for your courage and your bravery and for all that you did to create a much better world for everybody here in this room.”
Bryant received the WOCIP’s Legacy Trailblazer Award.
Women of Color in Pharma (WOCIP) is a 501(c) (6) nonprofit corporation founded in March 2015 by Charlotte Jones-Burton, M.D., M.S. and Patricia Cornet, M.A.