People and Culture
Gilead’s Legal Team Achieves Rigorous Diversity Certification
Stories@Gilead - November 29, 2023 - 4 min read
When Shirley Cantin was a law student, about half of her classmates were women. Yet when she joined a corporate law firm, Shirley noticed that most of its leaders were white men. And when she left a decade later, little progress on the leadership team’s diversity had been made.
“I really want to see more diversity at the top, which is where it matters most,” says Shirley, now Senior Associate General Counsel, Head of U.S. IP Litigation at Gilead. “We need women, working mothers, people of color and others with diverse backgrounds in leadership positions – and to get there, everyone needs to pitch in.”
For the last two years, Shirley has been working with Keeley Wettan, Senior Vice President of Global Legal Business Partners, and other team members to shape a more diverse and inclusive future for the legal field and recently obtained Mansfield Certification for Gilead. The certification program aims to diversify leadership and increase opportunities for people who have been historically underrepresented in law firms and in-house legal departments. In addition, Gilead achieved Mansfield Certification Plus, which measures actual diverse representation within the company’s Legal Department.
“The Mansfield Certification allows us to move beyond saying we’re committed to diversity and inclusion,” says Keeley. “We’ll be able to demonstrate our work to attract, retain and promote diverse talent.”
Mansfield Certification Efforts
The Mansfield Certification program was created in 2017, and hundreds of U.S. businesses and law firms across industries, including a small group of pharmaceutical companies, have been certified so far.
The Legal team kicked off its efforts to obtain certification in 2021, and for Keeley, part of the reasoning was personal. “I’m the mother of three girls. When they enter the workforce, I want them to see leaders that reflect society,” says Keeley.
To earn certification, an all-volunteer team at Gilead developed benchmarks and measurement systems to track hiring, promotions, career development opportunities such as speaking engagements, and roadmaps for advancement of attorneys who have been historically underrepresented. This includes women, underrepresented races and ethnicities, individuals who identify as LGBTQ+ and people with disabilities. Part of these efforts included reworking Gilead’s job application system to allow applicants to identify, if they choose, as LGBTQ+ – enabling the team to track progress made.
“This is about broadening the pipeline pool,” says Shirley. “When you see the data, it shows where you are and where you can improve.” The process was challenging and rigorous, even for companies like Gilead that have established programs focused on inclusion and diversity. For example, the program extends to outside firms that work with Gilead, requiring that at least half of the teams considered are led or co-led by attorneys who have been historically underrepresented.
Gilead Looks Ahead to a More Diverse Future
Gilead’s Legal Department plans to continue using its newly established tracking systems to maintain and measure its progress. To bring about lasting change, the team is also focused on inclusion and retention.
“We’re continuing to make sure everyone feels comfortable being who they are,” says Shirley. “You can’t have diversity without inclusion.”
As one step, earlier this year the department held a six-session inclusive leadership training that included support for protecting psychological safety. Another program matches legal professionals with senior leaders though a sponsorship program. Leaders then advocate for their matches internally.
“It’s great to introduce folks to someone they wouldn't necessarily have a relationship with, to learn from and to think about what they can do with their career,” says Keeley.
Although the Mansfield Certification process only applies to legal departments and firms, Gilead is committed to promoting inclusion and diversity across all of the company’s functions.
"We know that diverse workforces have a higher performance and a stronger work environment,” says Keeley. “The Mansfield Certification provides the pathway for us to chart our improvement."