AbbVie is committed to advancing racial equality through our continued growth and acceptance of each other; our way of doing business; our attraction and development of talent; and our service to the community. We know that there is more to be done, and we are committed to listening and working toward real, lasting and meaningful change.
AbbVie recently took significant actions to ensure the company is leading by example. To do all we can to fully embrace equity, equality, diversity and inclusion and loudly reject systemic racism and all forms of bias. One such action – the creation of a new senior level position – ensures we are doing all we can do to enhance our understanding and address opportunities to help drive real change. To explore this more, we recently sat down with AbbVie’s Chief Equity Officer, Rae Livingston, to discuss the company’s efforts to tackle these tough issues of race, equity, equality and diversity.
Can you tell us a little bit about your role as Chief Equity Officer? What exactly does someone in this role do?
Livingston: This role is about making sure that within our organization, all of us – all AbbVie colleagues – have not just the same opportunities, but also the differentiated tools and resources needed to achieve our business goals and live out our ambitions and dreams. We all have had different journeys to get to the same starting point. We may not all need the same thing, but we all want to be successful, and sometimes that requires different support to get to the same starting point. To do this, we need to take the time to truly understand the degree to which our organization’s culture is exactly what we want it to be for all employees: a culture based on talent; a culture of performance; and, ultimately, a culture focused on providing all employees with equal opportunities to bring their unique characteristics to the table, without any inhibitions or roadblocks.
In this role, I strive to keep in mind our company’s highest priority, which is to develop and deliver innovative, life-changing medicines to our diverse group of patients. This type of commitment requires a level of thoughtfulness, creativity and innovation from each one of our colleagues, wrapped in their own uniqueness and diversity. To maximize every employee’s potential at AbbVie, we need to empower everyone to be themselves in their work environment; to provide a space where all are treated with respect and dignity. When we achieve this, we will create an atmosphere where even more of the best ideas are encouraged and inspired – from anyone. When we remove any potential roadblocks, we pave the way for unlimited thinking, more capability, and "best-in-class" mindsets. My role is really about championing our people, championing our culture and, ultimately, championing our patients.
As AbbVie’s Chief Equity Officer, what is your vision for the organization?
Livingston: Although my role may be fairly new, AbbVie’s focus on culture and embracing diversity and inclusion is not. From the first day we launched as a company, AbbVie realized the importance of culture in achieving success, and that ultimately inspires and attracts the best people and enables the best ideas to truly impact our patients. I recognized this about AbbVie when I joined the company in 2016; that we’re on a continuous journey to better our culture. We do this by keeping a pulse on what’s impacting people and humanity more broadly. I see AbbVie as a role model for creating experiences and workplace environments where people can flourish; where all employees are fully contributing and bringing their best selves to work. Internally, the hope is that every employee feels equally able to contribute, that we continue to elevate the culture at AbbVie, and that we examine – and continue to re-examine – any process, system, or part of the workplace experience that may be having a negative impact.
If we think about leadership as a big "L" – like the collective ‘AbbVie 47,000 strong’, what role can the big “L” play if each one of us pauses and reflects on how we contribute to the culture? Is there something we can do better? It’s about self-awareness and self-reflection; the ability to continually examine our approach from different perspectives while also continuing to identify potential gaps. If we look at some of these potential gaps through the lens of race, for example, how does that show up at work? I know - it's hard to talk about. But, if you aren't talking about it, it's hard to examine it. And if we can't examine it, how can we make meaningful change? Just creating the space for the conversation is critical.
Ultimately, my vision for AbbVie is that we continue to be this bright light in all the communities we serve. And I truly believe we are already doing this. One of my proudest moments at AbbVie came when it was announced we were going to build a middle school in North Chicago. I thought - what company decides on its own to break ground on a completely new school for someone else? It's a company that's committed, one that's already in touch with the community, already believes in the community, and one that "walks the talk" - takes decisive action to strengthen the community. We've got to do more of that, for each other, one-on-one.