Pfizer Refugee Leadership Initiative: Seen, Heard, and Cared For
We have all seen images of refugees whose lives have been upended by forces beyond their control, fleeing their homes for safety. Watching it as it unfolds means we have a choice to make: do nothing or find a way to help refugees rebuild their careers and their homes. Pfizer chose the latter.
We take pride in hiring the best qualified talent so we can achieve breakthroughs that change patients’ lives. Since many refugees have the talent and skills we are looking to hire, in late 2021, the Pfizer Refugee Leadership Initiative was created. To jumpstart the work, we joined the Tent Coalition for Afghan Refugees and later expanded the program to refugees from Ukraine and other refugees in need.
Our first hire, Mohammad Afzal Afzali, was a Chief of Staff at a university in Afghanistan and a translator for the U.S. Embassy. He had to leave Afghanistan with his family at a moment’s notice, and he finally joined Pfizer and settled in Texas. Throughout Pfizer, from the U.S. to Greece, Germany, Belgium, Italy, and other offices, we have seen an outpouring of support for the program. We hired more than 100 refugees in 2022 and have also announced our expanded aspirational goal of hiring 500 qualified refugees in the U.S. in the next three years. In addition, we committed to mentoring 300 refugees through 2025, 50 of whom are from the LGBTQ+ community.
In April 2022, Dr. Albert Bourla, Pfizer Chairman & Chief Executive Officer, and 34 other CEOs launched the Welcome.US CEO Council, pledging more than $75 million to support refugee resettlement organizations and non-profits to welcome Afghan and Ukrainian refugees coming to the U.S.
Since the Pfizer Refugee Leadership Initiative’s inception, Payal Sahni, Pfizer’s Chief People Experience Officer, has been a champion of the program. An Afghan refugee herself, she understands the importance of having access to opportunities and has made it her life’s calling to pay it forward and open doors for others. She now serves as a member of the Tent Advisory Council.
“The Pfizer Refugee Leadership Initiative opens up an untapped talent pool with amazing talent. Many managers have shared positive feedback on the refugee hires’ performance and work ethic. They have proven a diverse workforce and an inclusive environment are not only the right things to do but also a winning business strategy,” said Ramcess Jean-Louis, Pfizer's Chief Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Officer.
“The Pfizer Refugee Leadership Initiative is not a hand-out. These refugee hires have earned the opportunity and deserve to be here. We see the value they bring to the table and we, Pfizer, welcome their diverse perspectives and contributions. We always hire the most qualified candidates to ensure that candidates are in positions that reflect their education, skills and experiences,” said Mona Babury, Pfizer Director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion and also the colleague who came up with the idea and built the initiative from scratch.
We have seen amazing work from our refugee hires. We also want them to have peace of mind knowing they have joined a workforce where they are seen, heard, and cared for and find a true sense of community at Pfizer.