As part of my effort to uncover how my US colleagues are making our global responsible business commitments a reality in the US and to better understand what it means and what it takes for GSK to become a disability confident employer, I spoke with Tracy, GSK’s Director of Clinical Quality and Risk Management in R&D Dermatology.
Tracy has been a driving force behind GSK’s progress in the US and around the world. She also plays an important role in a number of diversity organizations, including her roles as:
- Member of the GSK Global Disability Council, chaired by our President of Global Manufacturing & Supply Roger Connor
- Member of the GSK R&D Inclusion Council, chaired by our R&D SVP Lynn Marks
- Founder of the Disability Confidence Network (DCN), a GSK Employee Resource Group
Tracey represented GSK's commitment to creating a diverse and inclusive work environment where all employees feel inspired and supported to develop their capabilities and achieve their best. Efforts are underway to increase our disability confidence – from making our facilities and technology more accessible to addressing our culture and employee attitudes about disability. I hope you'll take some time to read through my interview with our very own "Courageous Problem-Solver."
Katie: What does GSK becoming a disability confident organization mean to you?
Tracy: To me, GSK becoming disability confident is exciting. It means that everyone will be able to bring their best self to work, that we celebrate differences and encourage inclusion.
It’s important to remember that not all disabilities are visible. Sometimes we don’t even realize the daily barriers our colleagues might experience. And it’s not unusual for those with disabilities to feel reticent about speaking-up and requesting the tools and support they need to do their job well (such as closed caption phone or a sit-to-stand work station).
I want GSK to be a workplace where everyone with disabilities – and their managers – have easy access to the tools and support they need to enable everyone to reach their true potential at work. And I want our global culture to reflect a deep appreciation for diversity and an understanding of the value of different perspectives at the table – how it can unlock potential and uncover innovative ideas, which is good for business.
The reality is that people with disabilities are a very diverse group and make up the largest market segment in the world. Celebrating our differences only makes us stronger and it can provide a perspective on the patients that are at the heart of what we do.
I realized I needed to be brave and speak-up so I could help make lasting change.
Katie: What has been the most significant point of progress so far?
Tracy: While we still have work to do, there are several points of progress that make me feel heartened. Establishing a disability confident culture starts at the top, and we definitely have committed leadership with our global CEO Andrew Witty. Andrew and Roger participated in the kickoff meeting last year for the new Employee Resource Group DCN, Andrew chairs the board of directors of Business Disability International, and Andrew has made it a responsible business priority for GSK to become disability confident. Andrew’s engagement will go a long way in helping get more employees throughout the business involved and supportive.
As background, you should know that I have a service-connected disability. It’s not particularly visible, so many of my colleagues have no idea of the difficulties I face on a regular basis. I don’t talk about it a lot. I’m not looking for sympathy, and definitely don’t want to look like I’m complaining. My disability is just part of who I am. And I know others have issues far worse than me – I’m thankful for what I’m able to do.
I had a challenging experience accessing some basic tools necessary for me to do my job. It was through this experience, which can make a person feel invisible, that I recognized others may not feel as courageous as I did to make needs known. They might be suffering in silence. I realized I needed to be brave and speak-up so I could help make lasting change.
With the support of several other wonderful colleagues like Rick, who has enterprise-wide management of all employee resource groups, and Lynn, who is an SVP in R&D, I launched the DCN. It’s meant to be a trusted resource to partner with the businesses to facilitate enabling all employees to feel valued and be able to reach their potential through inclusion, awareness, education, access to workplace adaptations and advocacy.
Since the launch of the group, we have been able to walk beside people with disabilities and become allies and advocates. We have helped colleagues with disabilities navigate some challenges, and I have received warm, positive, and appreciative feedback – that makes me feel really good and makes it worth the hard work.