Novo Nordisk chose to let the U.S. affiliate lead the response on racial injustice, and we hosted several sessions with employees to listen, share and heal. What we heard was hard to swallow. Several shared that they sometimes felt uncomfortable when customers wanted to have conversations about race. Others admitted they had been profiled, or pulled over, while simply driving to work.
Many of our global colleagues also shared images of peaceful protests in Denmark, Japan and across the world. It was the first time I had ever seen so many people who were not Black proclaim that Black Lives Matter. Some questioned whether the term caused division, and I would always explain it for what it really is: we have to say Black Lives Matter because Black lives were, and remain, in danger.
We cannot establish equity or justice without acknowledging that some people are treated differently based solely on how they look or speak or even their name. And that’s not just in the United States, but everywhere. Gender and sexual orientation rise to the top in many countries when we talk about diversity, but it should not be an either/or. Companies like mine must embrace the needs and feelings of employees, with an empathetic mindset of doing the right thing and making sure people are OK. If we don’t, the problems will only continue to grow.
This worldwide racial awakening exposed some blind spots we had in
Novo Nordisk - on race and the divisions it spurs - and now we are
talking more openly about it. I would not be telling the truth if I
said everyone liked it. They don’t. These conversations make some
people uncomfortable, but it is important that we continue to listen
to each other, talk and learn.
We have a lot of work to do and are still coming up with action plans for what’s right. It is not a quick fix, and it will not be perfect. But we are taking steps forward and we, as employees, are ready to help make more progress.
In our quest to be diverse, inclusive, and ultimately empathic to patients, employees and stakeholders across the world, it is unrealistic to expect that we are going to get it right all the time. But we get it wrong every time if we don’t keep trying.