The Power of Collaboration with Competitors
What’s possible when companies that share a commitment to gender equity come together — without sharing trade secrets
It’s not often that competitors in a billion-dollar industry sit around a table strategizing together. And yet, members of the Gender Parity Collaborative, a group of organizations in healthcare and the life sciences, have been doing just that since the group’s founding in 2018.
What unites them? A commitment to accelerating gender parity and equity — not just talking about it, but actually doing the work.
Nada Obeid, who is the Executive Director and Head of Regional Market Access in the U.S. for Amgen, describes how struck she was at her first Collaborative meeting by the positive energy in the room. “We were working together, instead of working against each other,” she recalls. The problem they were coming together to solve: how to continue advancing women within their organizations while supporting staff through a series of societal and global crises, from COVID-19 to the murder of George Floyd.
“People really let their guard down,” Obeid says, emphasizing that despite this openness, no one shares proprietary information. Rather, the focus is on gender equity, health equity, and the overall health and wellbeing of staff, and conversations center on “solving problems, aligning, and seizing opportunities.”
Obeid credits her involvement with the Collaborative as one of several sources of insight that helped her understand the profound need to better support women of color in the workplace. As the global chair of Amgen’s Employee Resource Group (ERG) for women, she created a new leadership role within the ERG designed to be held by a woman of color. That new leader, Vanessa Nortey, worked with a dedicated team within the ERG to begin connecting with women of color employed by Amgen around the world. The company learned from these conversations and began offering new forms of support for the women of color on their staff, including:
- Host monthly gatherings for women of color that offer a safe space to discuss professional and personal issues and solutions.
- Offer career development workshops that equip women of color with concrete action plans and tools to help boost their careers, such as career roadmaps to use in conversations with managers and/or potential sponsors. These workshops foster opportunities for women of color to self-advocate and establish their personal brand while building trust with leaders who can potentially advocate for and/or open doors for them.
Amgen also began giving women of color more of a platform to talk about issues they signaled were important to them, such as health equity in the African American communities that Amgen serves.
A major benefit of the Gender Parity Collaborative model, Obeid explains, is how it equips members with both strategies and language to take back to their individual organizations, in order to build internal support for efforts around gender parity, equity, and inclusion. In particular, she says she’s gotten a lot of ideas about how to partner with her HR, DI&B, Legal, and Communications teams to share and operationalize data. It also helps to be able to cite the work that other companies — competitors, no less — are doing.
Today, thanks to improvements in data-sharing internally, Amgen is better able to tell the story of the work it’s doing to help women advance — and that, in turn, has helped them attract and retain female talent. This is especially important, Obeid notes, “in a scientific discipline, where it’s so hard to find talent, period.”
Obeid credits her participation in the Gender Parity Collaborative as inspiring much of her company’s progress. Describing the power of collaboration, she reflects, “It’s really that crescendo that I think we make when we come together — that concerted sharing of voices.”
It goes to show: when competitors are willing to put aside their differences to work together in service of a common goal, they are more powerful together than any one of them could ever be alone.