We caught up with Danielle Coe, Founder and CEO of Black Women in Clinical Research (BWICR), to find out more about the work that BWICR is doing to drive diversity in the clinical research industry.
How did you get into the clinical research sector?
I started my clinical research career as an intern at Atlanta Vanguard Medical Associates. I received the internship after calling multiple clinics that were listed on www.clinicaltrials.gov. I have faced many challenges in my professional career; the most obvious is the lack of opportunities for people of colour. That has served as my foundation to implement changes that are impacting the history of the industry.
Are there still barriers for Black women to enter the industry – what are they, and what can we do to address this?
There are barriers to the lack of career mentorship to prepare qualified applicants for openings in this industry. At BWICR, we provide resources so that everyone can be represented in the industry and, in turn, help other people find their way and achieve their dreams.
Do you believe that the sector as a whole is doing enough to drive diversity?
No, I believe we can do a lot more to increase diversity. At the same time, there have been gains in this industry. It is slow, but it makes us hopeful about continuing the work. Ideally, to increase diversity in the clinical research industry, companies need to reach out to professional organisations to develop a relationship and a robust pipeline. HBCUs would serve as a vast resource once CRO companies contact them and put programs and plans in place. I am driving diversity by connecting with recruiters at the CROs and reaching out to HR departments to bring more diverse candidates to the company.
Are there any companies in the sector leading the way when it comes to diversity and inclusion?
Yes, Pharmaceutical Product Development (PPD) has a program called BOLD which stands for Black Organization for Leadership Development. PPD is offering support for Black employees and creating a welcoming space. They are saying ‘I hear you and I see you’. They have different events. In this short time working there, people from BOLD reached out to me to let me know that I can come to them and ask them questions. I appreciate feeling like I have a place and that my voice matters.
I appreciate feeling like I have a place and that my voice matters.Danielle Coe, BWICR
What were the reasons for setting up BWICR?
I founded Black Women in Clinical Research to educate, empower, support, and help Black women thrive in the clinical research industry. Now we are also assisting men and other minorities across the country. It is a phenomenal experience to watch a dream unfold that is changing thousands of people’s lives.
What is BWICR prioritising for the coming year?
We are driving to increase diversity in this industry with strategic partnerships with CROs and HBCUs. We also have been speaking to different universities, such as Clark Atlanta University, NCA&T, Jackson State University, and North Carolina Central University. I have reached out to the White House HBCU Initiative Program to receive assistance on the best way to reach more college students and let them know about careers in clinical research. They were very receptive.
Are you positive about the future?
I am very optimistic about the future for Black Women in Clinical Research. We are experiencing rapid growth and plenty of people getting hired or the direction they need. The circle of support grows stronger almost daily.
What advice would you give to a young Black person who may be thinking about a career in clinical research?
This is a challenging industry, but it is rewarding. Do not give up if you are rejected for a position. There is support for you. Continue to network with people in this industry. All it takes is one yes.
How can people get involved with BWICR or access support?
You can get involved by visiting www.bwicr.com and contact us. BWICR is on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter.
Diversity Network is proud to support the work of BWICR, a network of Black women who are interested in a career in clinical research or currently working in the industry. They come together to educate, empower, support, and help Black women thrive in the clinical research industry. For more information, visit their website.