Pfizer to Place 100 Young Minorities in New Fellowship Program

Pfizer Inc. will place 100 young Black, Hispanic and Native Americans in a new fellowship program over the next four years as investors, employees and activists put pressure on big companies nationwide to increase workforce diversity.

Those selected will start with a 10-week summer internship, followed by two years of full-time employment at Pfizer, according to a company statement. They’ll also get mentoring to help with their development and a fully funded scholarship to complete a masters degree in business administration or public health. They may be students, or those just starting out in their careers.

The training and education should help give minority workers an edge against the competition when it comes to applying for high-ranking roles with the giant drugmaker, said Payal Sahni Becher, Pfizer’s chief human resources officer, in an interview.

“In many of the roles where we don’t see enough diversity in our leadership ranks, when you compare the people who they are in competition against, they always have an MBA,” she said.

Historically, Black Americans have consistently had higher unemployment rates than their White counterparts, and they trail in promotions and pay.

While Pfizer has had a global diversity and inclusion leader since 2005, the New York-based drugmaker’s goal to recruit 100 fellows by 2025 is relativity small in comparison to efforts from companies of similar size.

Earlier this year, for instance, a group of 43 large U.S. companies -- including Merck & Co., a Pfizer competitor -- pledged to hire 1 million Black workers over the next decade. Members of the group, called OneTen Coalition, will focus on training and hiring Black workers without four-year college degrees for “family sustaining” jobs that pay an average of about $50,000 a year.

When asked why Pfizer had not joined the OneTen Coalition Becher said the company wanted to be “thoughtful about their relationship and partnerships, and make sure they could deliver on their commitments” on growing diverse talent.

Company’s Goals

Chief Executive Officer Albert Bourla said in a statement that the fellowship builds on the company’s goals to have “opportunity parity” by 2025, increasing minority representation among employees to 32% from 19%. That vision was first laid out in 2019.

The new fellowship will create “a pipeline of diverse talent throughout the organization,” Bourla added.

Companies have been struggling to add more Black and Hispanic workers, especially in the upper ranks, according to a Bloomberg analysis of 37 of 100 of the U.S’s largest corporations as part of an initiative to track the corporate response to the Black Lives Matter movement.

Bloomberg’s corporate accountability tracker also found that more businesses are adding chief diversity officers, setting targets for representation of minority groups, establishing pipeline programs with historically Black colleges and universities, and adding people of color to their boards.

Employee Counts

To date, Pfizer hasn’t yet disclosed a detailed breakdown of U.S. employee counts by race and gender across job categories, known as an EEO-1 form. Employers are required to submit them each year to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, but they’re not legally bound to make them available to the public.

Pfizer told Bloomberg earlier this year it would publish its 2020 EEO-1 form by the end of the first quarter of 2021.

Although conversations about diversity and inclusion have been taking place for several years at the company, the Black Lives Matter protests over the summer last year were a catalyst to do more, Becher said.

“We had been having these discussions but this accelerated it even more. It’s been a journey” she said. “In the last couple of years we’ve become more and more transparent, and I think society demands it.”

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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