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Transformation through Diversity: Featuring Eva Laparra

Eva Laparra, MD of SERMO, talks to us about diversity in the healthcare and market research industries

Eva Laparra is Managing Director for Europe at SERMO, the world’s most popular social network for healthcare professionals and leading data collection company in the healthcare market research sector. She has spent the last eighteen years in the market research and marketing sector. Ten years ago she sold her own company to WPP and went on to senior executive roles at Vision Critical and WorldOne before they became SERMO in 2013. We sat down with Eva to find out more about what she’s doing to transform market research through diversity.

What does diversity mean to you?

For me, when people talk about diversity they’re normally referring to gender, ethnicity, culture, religion, etc., but I think it is also about having people from completely different professional backgrounds.

Has your business launched any effective initiatives to improve equality and diversity?

We’re beginning to look outside the traditional avenues for our new recruits. It’s reassuring to know that new hires have had industry experience, but broadening our pool of potential talent has meant that we don’t miss people who bring fresh ideas and innovative solutions to our business. For senior roles especially, you end up recruiting people you already know because it is a small world after all, and that too makes it more difficult to have diversity. At SERMO, we’re very tech focused so being receptive to innovation is key. We aren’t just looking at people’s experience and all the other traditional criteria related to their jobs, but also their creativity, openness to innovation and flexibility to work with new technology.

What are the biggest challenges facing your industry in terms of diversity?

In the pharmaceutical and healthcare industry, the biggest challenge to diversity is regulation and compliance. People tend to hire from competitors to ensure that new hires are fully up to speed with compliance. Another challenge is that you have a high number of very specialised market research companies. They’re often small businesses (comparatively), often based in one location, with a small group of specialist employees. I think the niches that exist across market research hamper diversity.

What should your industry do better to boost its diversity?

In market research, our consumer colleagues are doing things that to the healthcare industry feel a little like science fiction! At a senior level, there are more and more people coming from different industries. People with different backgrounds bring excitement and innovation and maybe that top-down approach will work in healthcare too. In general, I also feel that we do not have enough senior women in healthcare which is the case across all industries and business.

What are you doing to improve diversity?

Well, we are seeing change. At conferences and industry events, there is a desire to hear about other industries. That is a great step towards more diversity. At SERMO, we have a very diverse environment. We have people working in different countries. For instance, I'm based between Spain and Germany with a team divided between Barcelona, Vilnius and London. Lots of diversity here! We’ve also recently introduced testing methods to gauge how our candidates think and approach problems, highlighting different skill sets that inform our own work in a positive way.

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