Demetrius Carter, Certara, Senior Vice President of Regulatory Service Operations

What is your role at Certara and what does this involve?

As senior vice president of regulatory service operations at Certara, I am responsible for running our global operations team, ensuring high quality and efficient delivery of our tech-enabled regulatory services, and providing excellent customer experiences. I also spearhead our Accelerator programme, which helps our customers expedite their clinical development programs through a decision framework that improves efficiency and reduces costs, helping to achieve regulatory and commercial success.

How does Certara support diversity and inclusion across its operations?

Purposeful recruiting is at the top of our priorities at Certara. We hire for diversity and also retain and provide opportunities for people in an environment of inclusion so that employees not only have equal opportunities but also thrive at Certara. We are investing in training on diversity and inclusion, such as required unconscious bias training for all employees. This helps us to get on the same page about the value of D&I and develop a common vernacular.

Another priority is to regularly assess where we are and our progress. Certara is leveraging an engagement survey focused on D&I to  pulse the organisation and also survey throughout the year. This not only helps us understand where we are as an organisation, but we can also use the data to build a multi-year plan to advance our efforts. We have work to do, and this will acknowledge the work to be done and put us on a path to achieve it.

How is it ensured that diversity and inclusion remain a focus?

Ongoing leadership commitment to diversity and inclusion is critical, because this is not just another initiative. Culture, innovation, growth and strategy are intertwined with people and D&I and require the dedication of resources and time. William Feehery, our chief executive, joined the CEO Action for Diversity & Inclusion and committed to concrete steps to building a more diverse and inclusive workplace such as sharing our strategic inclusion and diversity plan with the board of directors. Jodi Dickinson, our chief human resources officer, who joined last year, has significant experience in progressing diversity and inclusion.

I believe that the key to making sustainable progress in diversity and inclusion is to create a robust roadmap and goals incorporated into the strategic plan and have clear accountability. By developing a multi-faceted, programmatic approach, we can embed diversity and inclusion into our every-day activities. This includes talent management, affinity groups, training and development and a commitment to mentoring.

What are the key benefits of these initiatives?

The benefits are significant. Recruiting for diversity and creating an inclusive environment build a diverse, global community that promotes the sharing of different ideas and improves productivity, innovation, and decision-making. Certara’s growth has been the result of innovation and expanding boundaries in drug development. We continue to advance a culture of inclusivity and openness to support our people, which generates great ideas and innovation. This also means that we are willing to have difficult and uncomfortable conversations.

Furthermore, developing talent and offering professional development and career paths not only grows employees but also retains them, reducing turnover.  I have been fortunate to have mentors throughout my career who have pulled me into opportunities and supported my development. For example, my first leadership role, where I was tapped to lead a sizeable central laboratory team, was a direct result of my mentoring relationship. Without my mentor seeing my potential, I most likely would not have been considered for the role.

Are there any challenges?

Managing the day-to-day business takes time and effort. It can be hard to find the time and energy to focus on diversity and inclusion continually, so the attention can wax and wane. We also need to be aware and understanding of the needs of employees and respect their privacy. Every individual has their preferences, and we need to be mindful. This is why training on unconscious bias is critical, and raising consciousness regarding impactful behaviours, such as micro-aggression.

Generally speaking, do you think there is enough attention on diversion and inclusion in the industry?

The Life Sciences industry has a long way to go. US Census data shows that diversity in STEM fields varies widely. Women as well as Black and Latinx workers, are consistently underrepresented across STEM fields.

Addressing these gaps and systemic racism will require corporate investment in resources and ongoing commitment to meaningful change. D&I should be incorporated into strategic plans for the organisation and everyone’s goals and objectives. It also needs employees to evolve thinking and to take ownership of their role in D&I. We all have to be proactive to promote anti-racist behaviour. Staying silent is not okay. We also have to collaborate in the life sciences industry and share best practices and key learnings.

What are your hopes for the future?

Given the current social unrest seen around the world, the future is about leveraging this moment to accelerate progress against our diversity goals. Specifically, in the life sciences industry, I hope to see more diverse representation achieved in the C-suite.

At Certara, I hope that we continue to expedite meaningful and sustained change in recruitment, career pathing, and mentoring to build our culture of inclusivity and increase diversity in management and leadership roles. I am also excited about the impact we can have in the industry by expanding the inclusion of underrepresented populations in clinical research, which leads to improved outcomes, efficacy, and patient safety.