Proud Science Alliance: supporting LGBTQ+ diversity and inclusion in healthcare

Today’s guest blog comes from Stuart Gittings, Chair of the Lilly LGBT Allies, and Stephen Ingham, Proud Science Alliance Lead at Lilly UK.

Embracing diversity and inclusion within any workforce requires that individuals have an understanding of the differences that exist within an employee group, be it race, colour, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, national origin, socioeconomic background or disability, and a respect for the alternative perspectives such differences contribute to the work environment and to work product.  We subscribe to the view that the interests of our company are best served by visibly embracing diversity. This means attaching real value to the creativity engendered by inclusive teams, where diverse perspectives drive forward innovative thinking, to provide the medical advances that are both fundamental to our business and to the day-to-day lives of patients we serve.

In this post, we introduce readers to the Proud Science Alliance, a new and expanding initiative which aims to further LGBTQ+ diversity and inclusion in healthcare and life sciences. Sadly, employees who identify as LGBTQ+ commonly fear negative consequences of being open about their sexual orientation or gender identity at work. Practising caution not to reveal this information has a negative impact on an individual’s ability to perform at their best. 

With 18% of LGBTQ+ employees having reported being the target of negative conduct from work colleagues in the last year 1, it may come as no surprise that half of LGBTQ+ employees still hide this aspect of their identity at work 2 Removing a real or perceived necessity for caution and unlocking the full potential of LGBTQ+ employees would directly enhance their productivity and the productivity of the teams to which they contribute.  We believe that inclusive leadership that visibly acknowledges and encourages LGBTQ+ employees is fundamental to fulfilling the potential of this employee group. The conversation here breeds confidence and provides the necessary real-world narrative to accompany the right documented company policies. 

Within the healthcare and life sciences sector, the Proud Science Alliance seeks to tackle these challenges. This partnership comprises Lilly and a growing number of other international pharmaceutical companies 3, and not-for-profit organisations like the Wellcome Trust and the Francis Crick Institute. It aims to create an open network that connects the LGBTQ+ employee resource groups of member organizations in an effort to raise the bar across the life sciences sector in the collective improvement of inclusivity for LGBTQ+ employees.  Through the sharing of best practice as well as learning from those outside the sector, the Alliance aims to facilitate positive and supportive environments for LGBTQ+ employees, so that individuals within this minority group feel they can bring their whole self to work and fulfil their potential.

Moreover, it seeks to provide a forum for developing collective responses to LGBTQ+ issues that benefit organisations in healthcare and life science, and to serve as a collective resource to our organisations, helping us to think about how we can be more reflective of the patients and communities we endeavour to serve.  The Alliance also aspires to improve the retention of more LGBTQ+ talent in the healthcare and life sciences sector, where current evidence suggests retention of university STEM students into roles working in the field lags significantly behind heterosexual peers 4.  

Earlier this month, with Lilly as chief sponsor, the Alliance held a networking event to coincide with London Pride.  With over 250 people marching in the Pride parade under Proud Science Alliance banners, this event saw LGBTQ+ scientists, researchers, physicians, regulatory experts, lawyers and their straight allies, come together to connect their LGBTQ+ employee networks at the grassroots level and celebrate their collective contribution to the healthcare and the life sciences.  The event bubbled with enthusiasm for this new initiative, with attendees from organizations outside the existing Alliance following up with enquiries to join. 

Lilly will continue to be active in the development of the Proud Science Alliance with particular effort on an LGBTQ+ focused leadership event planned for the autumn.  To compete in an increasingly challenging external environment, our success is dependent upon taking full advantage of the unique perspectives, talents, and experiences of each and every person whom we engage in our work.  If we are to attract and retain the talent that we need for our business to succeed, our approach to inclusivity must not only match that of our company peers, but also exceed it.  Through initiatives such as the Proud Science Alliance, we have not only a window onto our competition through which to look, learn and exceed; but also an excellent opportunity to raise standards of LGBTQ+ inclusivity across the sector.  In supporting this initiative, we will continue our endeavours to champion the value of the diversity that LGBTQ+ employees bring to the workplace and by encouraging their visible inclusion, seek to unlock the full potential of this largely silent and invisible minority. 


[1] Stonewall’s 2018 LGBT in Britain Work Report

[3] Current member organizations include GSK, J&J, Pfizer, Bayer, Lilly, AstraZeneca, MedImmune, Wellcome Trust,  Francis Crick Institute,

[4] At university, heterosexual men were 17% more likely to stay in STEM than their LGBQ male counterparts - Science Advances, Coming out in STEM: Factors affecting retention of sexual minority STEM students


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