How This Company Is Encouraging Diversity At Every Level — Starting With The Board Room

Image result for Joe Almeida, Chairman, President and CEO of Baxter International, with Baxter employees.
Baxter International
Joe Almeida, Chairman, President and CEO of Baxter International, with Baxter employees.

This article is part of a series of op-eds by CEO signatories who are part of CEO Action for Diversity & Inclusion, the largest CEO-led business coalition focused on advancing diversity and inclusion in the U.S. 

“Diversity and inclusion efforts help … to support a culture in which our employees can be their authentic selves.”

These days, it’s common for leaders to advocate for board diversity. What’s not common is to engage in these discussions while being one of the only men at the table.

This was my reality during a recent not-for-profit board appointment. It gave me a fresh perspective on board dynamics, leadership styles and the power of diversity when an ambitious agenda is in play.

Not that I needed further convincing. In a professional life spanning three-plus decades, I’ve seen countless examples of diversity and inclusion driving superior results. And as the father of two daughters, now both in college pursuing their own career ambitions, I have a very personal stake in gender balance in the workplace.

My experiences have informed my approach to advancing D&I. So has the simple and obvious observation that it’s the right thing to do. 

When I arrived at Baxter over three years ago as incoming chairman and CEO, the company had just spun off its thriving bioscience business as a new company, shedding a formidable proportion of annual net sales and profitability in the process. My mandate was to reinvigorate the remaining business, comprising a wide range of products that are indispensable to modern health care, from IV solutions to generic injectable pharmaceuticals to renal care and ICU technologies and much more.

Several dovetailing priorities rapidly emerged. We had to spark leading-edge innovation across our remaining businesses and key adjacencies. We had to usher in a heightened emphasis on operational excellence. We had to reframe cultural expectations in line with our new reality, and reassert our status as a great place to work for top-tier talent. 

It was an ambitious agenda on multiple fronts, demanding diversity of thought, expertise and insight, but, at the same time, unity around Baxter’s fundamental values, starting with our mission to save and sustain lives. 

Upping the board’s gender and ethnic diversity would not in itself advance this agenda. But demographic diversity is an active ingredient across all these measures. We needed broad social awareness and understanding the same way we needed expertise in areas like research and development, mergers and acquisitions and information technology, all in service of achieving our full potential in a complex worldwide marketplace.

This did not call for a complete reconstitution of Baxter’s board. It did, however, mean taking full advantage of the diverse perspectives embedded in the existing board, as well as welcoming new voices and expertise through strategic board refreshment. Today, ethnic minorities and women make up 50% of our board, and our last three director appointments have been women. Every new recruit brings specialized knowledge in priority areas vital to accelerating performance. And the board is highly engaged in how we advance D&I throughout the company. 

Even as the board set the tone, we needed to work in parallel to drive transformation throughout our worldwide operations. Diversity and inclusion efforts help fuel innovative thinking, while also helping to support a culture in which our employees can be their authentic selves. We’ve supported this through recruiting policies, manager effectiveness training, employee resource groups, a senior leadership global inclusion council and more, ramping up existing practices and policies, and initiating others. 

So, have these efforts made a difference? 

Baxter’s transformation has achieved traction and continues to build momentum across multiple measures, including pace of innovation, customer satisfaction, employee engagement and financial performance. 

We’re also advancing in areas that are easy to observe but tougher to measure, for instance, by instilling a sense of renewed energy across the enterprise, or my own recent experience of attending more and more meetings where diverse voices are driving the narrative, evoking my engagement on that not-for-profit board.

There is no doubt in my mind that D&I has contributed to our momentum. 

I must be careful not to overstate our progress. We still have a long path ahead to achieve our ultimate D&I goals, as well as the full opportunity of our transformation. But our progress so far is real and measurable, and it points the way to our future potential. 

It’s all been made possible by 50,000 diverse, hardworking Baxter employees globally who share a unifying passion for our mission. And our board is helping lead the way to a strong, sustainable future benefiting our many stakeholders.

Together we’re redefining Baxter for its next generation of impact, and I’m excited to see what we can accomplish next… together.



Winners and losers from the third Democratic presidential debate

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The top 10 Democratic candidates shared a single debate stage for the first time in the 2020 race, trading body blows while drawing stark contrasts on issues like health care and criminal justice reform.

I picked the best and the worst from the night. They're below. 

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*Joe Biden: The first 30 minutes of this debate -- typically the time with the highest viewership -- were Biden's best moments in his entire campaign to date. He didn't stumble as he had in previous debates and was able to show off his righteous anger side when Bernie Sanders seemed to suggest the former vice president was responsible for people getting cancer. (Worth noting: As the debate went on, Biden stumbled more.) Biden also got a bit lucky; Julián Castro's blatant attempt to make Biden's age an issue -- he kept asking the former vice president if he was "forgetting" what had been said a few minutes before. Low blow. And sort of ugly -- and likely to boomerang back on Castro (more on that below). Biden's full embrace of Obama -- all eight years, "good and bad" -- was also smart, since Obama remains a hugely popular figure in the Democratic Party especially among black voters. Overall, Biden looked strong and presidential although it wasn't perfect -- most notably in his meandering (and Trumpian) answer on the way forward on Iraq and Afghanistan. Overall, however, a good night for the vice president.
    *Beto O'Rourke: Supporters of the former Texas congressman have been waiting for months for the O'Rourke that showed up on Thursday night. "Hell yes, we are going to take your AR-15," O'Rourke pledged when the topic turned to gun control and the recent mass shootings in Texas. And the audience went wild. Yes, O'Rourke was helped by his opponents -- including Biden and Elizabeth Warren -- taking time out to praise him for his statements on gun control. And, yes, that speaks to the fact that they don't believe he poses any threat to their chances at the nomination. Still, for a candidate who has been losing altitude for months now, O'Rourke had a night
    *Barack Obama: After taking a surprising amount of incoming from some of the candidates in the July debate, the former president made a major comeback Thursday. Not only did Biden fully embrace Obama's eight years as president, the former president was praised by virtually every candidate on the stage. Which makes sense, politically. After all, Obama is the single most popular Democratic politician in the country -- by a long shot.
    *Kamala Harris' opening statement: I thought a bunch of the California senator's prepared one-liners -- and she had a LOT of them -- fell flat. (Case in point: "Instead of saying 'no we can't' let's say 'yes we can.'" Oomph.) BUT Harris dedicating her entire opening statement to directly addressing Trump was smart. And her closing line -- "And now, President Trump, you can go back to watching Fox News" -- was a huge applause line in the room and likely will be replayed dozens of times over the next 24 hours.


    *Julián Castro: The former San Antonio mayor had a clear plan going into this debate: Go after Biden and paint himself as the true heir to the Obama legacy. Unfortunately for Castro, he went way too hard at Biden on the age issue with his "are you forgetting" line -- that he repeated four times. The attack wound up making Biden look sympathetic -- and the former vice president's response, measured and in control, made Castro look small.
    *Andrew Yang: Look, I just wrote today about how Yang has come from absolutely nowhere to be surprisingly relevant in this race. But he stunk tonight. His promise to give a Freedom Dividend ($1,000 a month) to 10 families around the country at the start of the debate came across as gimmicky rather than a piece of provocative policy. His line about knowing a lot of doctors because he is Asian was painfully bad -- and furthered dumb stereotypes for no reason.
      *Elizabeth Warren: The Massachusetts senator wasn't bad -- she just wasn't super involved in the debate, which is weird given that she is widely seen as the strongest challenger to Biden at the moment. For a chunk of the first hour of the debate, Warren sort of disappeared. Some of that is a function of not getting questions from the moderators. But Warren also needs to find ways into conversations -- especially given how centrally located she was on the stage. When she got questions, Warren was solid, particularly when talking about teachers and her own personal narrative. But she didn't get enough questions.
      *The economy: This was a looooong debate. And we know that, in election after election, voters say the state of the economy (and how they feel about it personally) has a huge impact on their vote. Which makes the fact the economy wasn't the subject of a single question in that time remarkable. And bad.

      Jorge Ramos Grills Biden, Castro About Obama-Era Deportations

      Image result for jorge ramos + julian castro

      The Univision journalist did not let candidates evade questions on their immigration record at Thursday’s debate.

      Univision journalist Jorge Ramos, a moderator at Thursday’s Democratic debate in Houston, went hard after Vice President Joe Biden and former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julián Castro on immigration, not letting them evade questions on the record-high deportations under President Barack Obama’s administration.

      “Let me start with an issue that is causing a lot of division in this country: immigration,” Ramos said partway into the debate, held with 10 presidential contenders at Texas Southern University ― a historically Black college ― on Thursday night. 

      “You served as vice president in an administration that deported 3 million people ― the most ever in U.S. history. Did you do anything to prevent those deportations?” Ramos asked Biden.

      He then pointed out that the former vice president has refused to answer similar questions in past debates. “So let me try once again: Are you prepared to say tonight that you and President Obama made a mistake about deportations? Why should Latinos trust you?” 

      During Obama and Biden’s two terms, the U.S. government deported a record number of immigrants, causing some immigrants rights advocates to label Obama the  “deporter-in-chief.” Obama later shifted his policies, and his deportation figures dropped. 

      Biden responded that comparing Obama to Trump was “outrageous,” adding that “we didn’t lock people in cages, we didn’t separate families.”

      He pointed to Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which protected some undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. as children.  

      “I’m proud to have served with him,” Biden continued, later abruptly changing the subject to the Violence Against Women Act, which he is credited with having spearheaded. 

      But Ramos didn’t let Biden off the hook, insisting: “Yeah, but you didn’t answer the question: Did you make a mistake with those deportations?”

      “The president did the best thing that was able to be done at the time,” Biden responded.

      “How about you?” Ramos shot back. 

      “I’m the vice president of the United States,” Biden simply said. 

      Ramos then turned his pointed line of questioning to Castro, who also served in the Obama administration.

      “Your party controlled the White House and Congress in 2009 and didn’t pass immigration reform,” Ramos said. “So why should voters trust Democrats now?”

      Castro then echoed Biden in arguing that Obama was “very different” from Trump, saying the current president has “a dark heart when it comes to immigrants” and built his political career “scapegoating” them. 

      “But my problem with Vice President Biden is … every time something good about Barack Obama comes up, he says ’Oh, I was there … every time somebody questions part of the administration that we were both part of, he says, ‘Well, that was the president,’” Castro said. 

      (Biden later responded: “I stand with Barack Obama all eight years ― good, bad and indifferent.”) 

      Castro noted that he was the first candidate to put forward a comprehensive immigration plan in April and added that he would not be willing to give up DACA or other protections for immigrants to pass a compromise bill with Republicans on immigration. 

      “I believe in January 2021, we’re gonna have a Democratic president … a Democratic Senate and a Democratic House, and we’re gonna pass immigration reform within the first 100 days,” he added. 

      At the start of the debate, Ramos had powerfully kicked off the night by welcoming the Latinx community and speaking in Spanish: “En este país, también se habla español,” he said ― or: “In this country, we also speak Spanish.” 

      He then mentioned that this is a hard time for Latinos in Texas and beyond after the mass shooting in El Paso last month. The shooter had posted a racist, anti-immigrant manifesto railing against a “Hispanic invasion” of the state. 

      “Esto también es nuestro país,” Ramos said: “We are Americans, too.”



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