Johnson & Johnson’s Sophie Guerin on the Evolution of Diverse and Inclusive Workplaces in APAC

While diversity and inclusion may be approached differently in different parts of the world, we can all agree that it is not an end goal but a means to a more inclusive, just and productive workplace. Many organisations in APAC have publicly declared their commitment to diversity and inclusion, and according to a survey conducted by PWC, D&I is a stated value or priority area for 83 per cent of the organisations in the region.

Sophie Guerin is the Head of Diversity & Inclusion, APAC at Johnson & Johnson. Prior to joining J&J, Sophie was the Head of D&I, APAC at Dell Technologies and the Head of D&I for Community Business. With over 10 years of experience in the D&I space, Sophie is a recognised expert on diversity and inclusion in Asia, and speaks regularly at industry and thought leadership forums. She is co-author of publications including Examining Diversity & Inclusion from an Asian Perspective and Developing Dependency which explores special economic zones in the Greater Mekong sub-region. She is a member of the Diversity & Inclusion in Asia Network Advisory Council, and a founding member of the American Chamber of Commerce Singapore Women’s Steering Committee. Sophie is the first recipient of the American Chamber of Commerce China Committee of the Year Award, and is the founder of Women in International Public Affairs that is based in Paris.

Sophie shares her insights with Lynk on promoting cultural diversity in the workplace and her focus on unleashing the potential of the brilliant mix of people, in every corner of Johnson & Johnson.

L: How would you describe your current thinking about D&I and how has your thinking changed over time?

S: To me, diversity and inclusion is about driving sustainable economic growth by empowering and engaging marginalised communities in the global economy. From an individual viewpoint, diversity and inclusion becomes a holistic effort that engages the individual from early childhood well into one’s senior years. From a corporate standpoint, it means that organisations play a critical role in incorporating the principles of diversity and inclusion into their consideration of who is driving the business, the customers that they’re serving, and the broader investments that they’re making within the communities that they operate.  

Early in my diversity and inclusion journey, I equated D&I more with corporate social responsibility and failed to consider how it played a key role in Asia’s economic growth journey. While at times there are overlaps with CSR, at its heart, diversity and inclusion is a strategy that drives best-in-class business practices to better reflect the diverse communities in which we live in and serve to drive sustainable growth for all.

Sophie Guerin, Head of Diversity & Inclusion, APAC at Johnson & Johnson.
(Photo Courtesy of Sophie Guerin)

L: What is a memorable D&I initiative which you introduced that you believe was impactful and are proud of?

S: I’m particularly proud of the work that I led to introduce LGBT inclusion in Asia Pacific at Dell Technologies. This required tremendous collaboration across the organisation, partnership with customers and community stakeholders to get it across the line.  Ultimately, it significantly transformed the way that inclusion and diversity was seen within the organisation. On a personal level, I was humbled by the impact the work had on employees.  Many shared that it was the first time that they had a safe place to go to and truly be themselves. While I have done a number of things that I am proud of prior to this role, to this day, that work remains some of the most deeply personal works that I’ve had the opportunity to lead. It fundamentally changed the way I understood the role of a diversity and inclusion professional and the responsibility that the role has to serve the communities in which we operate.

L: What are a few often-overlooked D&I metrics that organisations need to start adopting?

S:
Organisations traditionally struggle when it comes to measuring inclusion. Diversity is relatively straightforward to measure, particularly if one is looking at more traditional demographics such as gender, ethnicity, ability, sexual orientation and gender identity, etc. Without proper technology and a robust employee engagement strategy in place, measuring inclusion can be difficult. Inclusion can be measured through inclusion indexes, as well as other indicative factors that reflect employee sentiment and engagement.  Best in class measurement practices ultimately link this back to customer engagement, new product development and sales.

L: At Lynk, we celebrate diversity of thought because we believe in the importance of bringing diverse viewpoints to every discussion. What would be your interpretation of diversity of thought?

S:
Diversity of thought can be harnessed in an environment that emphasises inclusion grounded in diversity and psychological safety. I see diversity of thought as an outcome of a robust approach to diversity and inclusion that is deeply embedded into an organisation’s business practices. Organisations have to ensure that they are driving accountability on a rigorous D&I strategy that is truly relevant and impactful to their business.  

L: Can you tell us a bit more about how Dell Technologies and Johnson & Johnson have developed a strong culture of D&I?

S: These are both organisations where diversity and inclusion is led from the top. They focus on speaking to the needs of their employees and connect this directly to the customers and patients that they serve. It’s with an approach that’s grounded in the mission of the business, ensuring that diversity and inclusion is in the lifeblood of their respective organisations. 

L: Why is D&I a business imperative?

S: Women represent more than 50 per cent of university graduates in multiple markets across Asia. The LGBT community controls US$800 billion in consumer spending in Asia.  Millennials represent 50 per cent of the global workforce in 2020.

The reality is that diversity is what fuels global economic growth. If companies are not able to actively integrate diverse communities into the way that they do business, not only will they not be able to meet the needs of their customers, they will not be economically empowering the next generation of customers and employees. As a result, opportunities become limited, innovation decreases, and economic growth stagnates.  In a growth-oriented region such as Asia Pacific, we cannot afford to overlook the critical role played by diverse communities. Actively integrating diverse communities into our business models will ensure sustainable economic growth for all well into the future.

This interview is a part of Lynk’s diversity and inclusion focus for Pride Month. Read more about our other Pride initiatives here.

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