Women in black shirt and checkered blazer speaks in front of a wall with writing
Women in black shirt and checkered blazer speaks in front of a wall with writing

Five Questions with Carla Calizaire, Global Leader, Diversity, Equity & Inclusion, Johnson & Johnson MedTech

When you ask her about her career journey,

Carla Calizaire will tell you that her role leading diversity, equity, and inclusion for Johnson & Johnson MedTech (JJMT) found her instead of the other way around. Carla was leading sales and marketing for DePuy Synthes Canada when the tragic deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery in 2020 occurred. She soon found herself joining conversations with colleagues sharing their frustration, fear, and anxiety as they attempted to process the painful events while also navigating remote work and day-to-day life amid the COVID-19 pandemic. In conversation after conversation, team members shared how difficult it was for them to watch the news every day and then hop on a Zoom call and pretend they were ok.  

Simultaneously, Carla was talking to leaders who were working harder than ever to understand the stories of their colleagues and were coming to realize the extent of their experiences both inside and outside of Johnson & Johnson.  

Thanks in part to those critical conversations happening at every level of the organization, Johnson & Johnson MedTech created the role of Global Leader, Diversity, Equity & Inclusion to ensure diverse representation, drive a culture of inclusion, and lean into areas where JJMT can better serve the needs of patients, customers, and employees. Carla was named to the role in fall 2020.  

For Carla, who had spent most of her career in commercial roles, the transition was a no-brainer. “Diversity, equity, and inclusion should be embedded in everything that we do,” she said. “If we can create an environment where everyone can bring their true authentic self to work every day, the sky is the limit for our organization.” 

We talked to Carla about her role and the work that Johnson & Johnson MedTech is doing to strengthen allyship, create a culture of belonging, build a diverse workforce, and combat racial and social health disparities.  

“Diversity, equity, and inclusion should be embedded in everything that we do.”

Q: What does allyship mean?  

A: Allyship is an active word for me, and it’s an ongoing process. When I think of allyship, I think of three words: listen, learn, and act. 

Allyship means that we will start to listen and understand each other’s stories to help build bridges.  

It also means that we will learn about what other communities are going through. Every single one of us comes from a different background, no matter who we are. If we take the time to learn about each other, we can work with each other more effectively.  

Finally, it means that we will act. If we listen to each other and we learn about other communities, it gives us the power to act in support of them. It’s about listening to what different communities need and acting to support them in their growth and development so that they can flourish.

Carla Calizaire HeadshotQ: What is Johnson & Johnson MedTech doing to build stronger allyship across the organization?  

A: Allyship is not a singular fix for the issues that we’re trying to address, but it is the center of the work that we are doing. It’s a critical part of retention, creating a culture of belonging, and making sure people thrive.  

One example of how we are strengthening this muscle across our organization is through our internal allyship series.  We’ve held multiple events featuring internal and external subject matter experts for discussions regarding race, gender, orientation, ability, psychological safety, and all the other wonderful and valuable differences that make our organization’s culture the global tapestry it is. More than 25,000 participants have joined these sessions so far.  

By engaging in these discussions, we can all understand how to better work, manage, and help people be successful while being true to themselves and their backgrounds. For example, in some cultures people are taught growing up that they need to fit in, be respectful, and show deference to their elders. But when they come to a corporate setting, they’re told to speak up, share their opinions, and advocate for themselves. That can be difficult for a person to reconcile.  

An important component of allyship is recognizing those cultural backgrounds and tapping into that knowledge to help people flourish. Instead of making everyone fit into a box, let’s throw the box away. It helps us work with each other, thrive with each other, learn with each other, and excel with each other.

carla and her sons in suits and dresses

Q: How is Johnson & Johnson MedTech advancing its culture of inclusion and innovation?  

A: Part of it is challenging everyone to think differently. You might hear someone complain that it is hard to make decisions when they have a wide range of perspectives and opinions to consider. That may be true. If everybody thinks the same, then you’ll probably get to a decision a lot faster. The question is, was that the decision the best one?  

When you bring diversity into your approach to innovation, you bring diverse perspectives into the process that allow you to arrive at a better product or solution. At the end of the day, when we include those perspectives, our innovation is stronger, and it translates to a larger audience. That’s what we’re pushing our colleagues to do every day at Johnson & Johnson MedTech through initiatives like our allyship series, reverse mentoring, toolkits, and more to create a culture of belonging for all at every level of the organization. 

Q: How is Johnson & Johnson MedTech building a diverse workforce for now and the future?  

A: Just as when it comes to innovation, diverse perspectives can help us identify the best talent for our organization. At Johnson & Johnson MedTech, we are reimagining our hiring process, including thinking differently about what is and who is the right candidate based on the needs that we have.  

We’re making sure that not only do we have diverse slates of candidates, but also diverse interview panels. We’re also expanding our recruitment into more areas to help us find more of those brilliant candidates to join Johnson & Johnson MedTech.  

We’re even rethinking the requirements for certain jobs. Do we need someone who has been in one sector for 20 years or could we look at someone who comes from a different background, such as a military service member who can bring a different perspective and expertise to the role?  

A diverse workforce is critical to our ability to serve healthcare professionals and their patients, which is why we have such a sense of urgency to build a diverse workforce now and for the future.  

Q: How is Johnson & Johnson MedTech using its role as a leader in healthcare to drive change? 

A: In 2021, we kicked off a lot of work on this front, from increasing clinical trial diversity to an effort to educate healthcare professionals on unconscious bias. We also provided scholarships to underrepresented minorities through the National Medical Fellowships and are working with institutions like Morehouse School of Medicine to build and strengthen the pipeline of future HCPs.

This year, we’re going to use the full power of Johnson & Johnson MedTech along with our partners across Johnson & Johnson to combat disparities in healthcare. We’re going to partner with healthcare professionals and patients to provide more access to care and technology and help with diagnosis and treatment. We want to make sure patients have access to high quality healthcare so they can prioritize their health and identify any potential health concerns early on.  

Eye health is a great example. An eye exam can detect over 270 different medical conditions–from diabetes to heart disease. By providing patients with access to health screenings, including eye exams, you can potentially detect diseases early on and make a significant difference for patients. We want to get patients access to innovative care, encourage people to seek out the care they need, and ultimately create better outcomes for patients.  

Carla and her sons in winter jackets take smile for a photo in Times Square

For me, driving change to address disparities in care is personal. A few weeks after my father turned 80, he had a massive stroke. My mother immediately recognized the signs and we both called 911, but when the paramedics arrived, they ignored my mother’s insistence that he was showing signs of a stroke. As a result, he didn’t receive the immediate care he needed to address his stroke. Four years later, he has trouble speaking, his short-term memory is impacted, and he’s still dealing with massive complications that could have been avoided. 

When I think about this work, I’m thinking about the mother, the father, the brother, the sister whose life we can change if we can close the gap in things like unconscious bias and disparities in healthcare. It could potentially avoid another family experiencing what my family did. That’s my dream. 

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