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Building a Culture of Inclusion at Vertex

At Vertex Pharmaceuticals, building a culture of diversity and inclusion means many things.

It means Vertex’s Executive Vice President and Chief Legal and Administrative Officer, Michael Parini, and its Senior Vice President and Chief Risk and Compliance Officer, Damian Wilmot, expect their outside counsel partners to demonstrate a commitment to diversity and inclusion.

It means employees have the option to participate in Employee Resource Networks like Inspiring Women in Leadership and Learning (IWILL), Vertex Includes Boundless Ethnicities (VIBE), a group for LGBTQ+ and allied employees (PRIDE), and a group for veterans and first responders (BRAVE). In addition to providing programming and support for employees, the affinity groups also have the chance to meet with Vertex’s leadership to talk about their goals and objectives, and provide feedback on how the company can continue to build a diverse and inclusive culture.

And it means encouraging diversity in the company by recruiting and retaining diverse talent and creating an atmosphere that is welcoming to all. When Wilmot and Parini describe the diversity and inclusion efforts of the company’s legal department, they talk about making sure the company’s stated values truly influence the day-to-day experience of working at Vertex.

“Our values are fundamental to our culture and they include respecting everyone for who they are and encouraging them to bring their best selves to work,” Parini said.

This December, Vertex will receive the Corporate Champion Award at the Boston Bar Association’s Beacon Award for Diversity & Inclusion ceremony for its comprehensive D&I efforts. The company’s progress toward prioritizing diversity and inclusion “began organically,” according to Wilmot. As groups of diverse employees began to meet on an informal basis, Vertex’s leadership recognized the value in creating a structure to make it possible to more effectively drive change.

Last year, Vertex celebrated its first “Diversity and Inclusion Week.” Led by the Employee Resource Networks, it gave employees the opportunity to reflect on the company’s values and culture, and appreciate the many different people and perspectives that make Vertex unique.

“Engaging the Employee Resource Networks allows us all to be on the same page and really drive these themes home. These groups are invested and engaged, and it has helped us think about strategies to make sure we are doing the best we can and really holding ourselves to the right standard,” Wilmot said.

The legal department, specifically, has demonstrated a fierce commitment to fostering diversity and inclusion at Vertex. Parini co-chairs the company’s Diversity and Inclusion Executive Steering Committee, and Wilmot co-chairs the legal department’s Diversity Committee. Parini signed the American Bar Association Resolution 113 on behalf of Vertex, and “followed through on all of [its] commitments,” including asking outside counsel firms to complete a diversity survey and report back.

“If you want to work with us, you better build a diverse team, because we value it immensely and believe it leads to better legal outcomes. If you want to keep working with us, that team needs to stay diverse,” Parini said.

The legal department also hosts a diversity and inclusion mixer for law firms annually, which attracts law firm partners from other parts of the country to the event.

The legal team at Vertex really leads the company on this issue. “We have an incredibly diverse group,” noted Parini.

“We hear in-house counsel talk about the diversity in their own departments, but sometimes they shy away from dealing with outside firms. There’s a lot of things we do to engage with diverse entities externally,” Wilmot said. “Earlier this year, we hosted a symposium on diversity and inclusion to engage the broader Boston biotech and business community on these topics and share best practices.”

They also partner with community organizations like Discovering Justice, Boys and Girls Club Boston, PAIR Project, and Project Citizenship, and they have participated in the Transgender ID Project (link to our feature) run by Ropes & Gray in partnership with GLAD. In the future, the team would like to continue to build out partnerships with community organizations that promote science, technology, engineering, art and math (STEAM) education, in an effort to get more diverse students into the pipeline for potential employment at Vertex.

“We try to push these priorities externally in addition to making it a priority internally,” Wilmot said.

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