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Plaudits, Progress and Partnerships – One important lesson in the push for equality!


By Karl Simpson, CEO, Liftstream

Winning is wonderful, it truly is, particularly the recognition which accompanies it. And we are very grateful to have scooped the latest ‘Commitment to Diversity’ award at the Xconomy Awards earlier this month. I commend Xconomy for making this an award category worthy of recognition and I credit all those amazing people, some of which were also finalists, for making tremendous contributions to the field of diversity and inclusion across life sciences.

This year, we were nominated for our work in partnership with the Massachusetts Biotechnology Council (MassBio) and the immediate past Chair of the Board, Abbie Celniker. Beyond the award itself, which is given following an arbitrary judgement by a panel, it delivers to me a clear message that the power needed to push for change and a more inclusive industry lies in partnership and greater levels of collaboration.

It is a privilege to encounter so many people who are deeply devoted to improving the lives of people employed across the life sciences sector, by making the workplace a fairer, more equal and inclusive place. Whatever the motivation for their earnest and noble efforts, they should be commended. As CEO of Liftstream, I am unrelenting in my pursuit of progress on this matter, and I apply my discretionary effort across many areas of the world. That said, I partially knew at the beginning of this mission, and I certainly know it now, that collaboration with other passionate and like-minded people and organisations, would allow me to have a far greater impact and achieve outcomes otherwise unattainable.

Our work with MassBio on diversity has spanned many years and so to have been jointly awarded is a validation of this sustained partnership. MassBio has been a strong partner with great conviction and we’re pleased to have been at their side in this effort. Successively, the organisation has shown a commitment and courage to take the issue on. In the push for greater equality you encounter some strong supporters, but overwhelmingly you are met with dismissive glances, subtle grunts of discomfort and good old fashion resistance. Therefore, MassBio deserves lashings of praise for the stance they’ve taken, especially given their prominence in all things biotech.

Liftstream has been lucky to have many great partners, yet, as I engage with leaders from some organisations representing important stakeholders in the drive for equality in life sciences, I see evidence of some parties wishing to push their own narrow agenda and somehow ‘own’ their chosen issue. However, this is a complex problem, and the report published by MassBio and Liftstream shows just how complicated it can be. There are many interrelated and interdependent elements which contribute to the wide-spread inequality that today severely impacts the careers of women, and even more so the careers of racial minorities.

The drug industry has spent the past 20 years breaking down walls and seeking the best science and the most talented people with the best ideas, wherever these exist. The siloed, narrow focus of companies was abandoned in favour of collaboration and more openness because it was thought it would spur innovation. So far that experiment seems to have been largely right.

And so it must be with another big industry challenge; the deep inequality that currently inhibits the sector from being as competitive, innovative and sustainable as it can be. To solve this problem we need individuals and groups to come together and find common purpose. To set aside the personal motive or any individual recognition that they might achieve, and to focus on a cause greater than ourselves or the organisations which employ us. For in collaboration exists untold promise for solving these deep-rooted and complex problems, and the potential for changing the sector for the current and future generations in a way which will be meaningful and lasting. At Liftstream, our goal was, and remains, progress on equality. It just so happens that our willingness to work with others has brought us plaudits.


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