Dr. Leen Kawas Details How Management Diversity Can Drive Better Company Performance

Dr. Leen Kawas, Managing General Partner at Propel Bio Partners, highlights the myriad of ways in which a diverse management team can positively impact an entire workforce.

In today’s increasingly global business landscape, workers with different nationalities and cultural profiles often come together to help achieve a company’s mission. Individuals of varied ages, educational backgrounds, and beliefs also add a rich dimension to the workplace.

Each person contributes recognized skills along with a distinctive perspective and a commitment to the team’s success. The team’s diverse makeup helps facilitate higher creativity and better collaborative outcomes.

Not surprisingly, highly engaged team members are more likely to stay with the company. On a larger scale, this talented, diverse workforce is well-positioned to benefit the business and its larger community.

Management Diversity Can Help Facilitate Better Outcomes

Leen Kawas, Ph.D. is a well-regarded bioscientist and Propel Bio Partners’ Managing General Partner. Dr. Kawas believes that effective, inspirational managers can help any team to meet ─ and exceed ─ its goals and objectives. Managers who also reflect the organization’s diverse makeup are well-positioned to bring out the best in their team members.

Dr. Leen Kawas stated that diverse company leaders can more effectively establish rapport with others with whom they share common ground. Leaders’ different viewpoints enable the creation of mutually beneficial relationships with internal and external partners. As might be expected, these bridge-building efforts can often lead to promising business opportunities and community partnerships.

Diversity Data Can Positively Impact Key Financial Metrics

In November 2022, As You Sow (a shareholder advocacy non-profit group) partnered with Whistle Stop Capital (a sustainable investment consultancy). Together, they published a report on the relationship between diversity data and company financial performance.

Specifically, the Workplace Diversity and Financial Performance Report compared 277 firms’ Equal Employment Opportunity diversity data to 14 core financial performance indicators. The diversity, equity, and inclusion (or DEI) research company DiversIQ conducted the research and compiled the report’s findings. The report highlighted three key points:

  • A positive association exists between diverse management and better financial outcomes.
  • Smaller gaps between company-wide diversity and management team diversity result in improved financial performance.
  • More representation of black, indigenous, and people of color (or BIPOC) management employees positively impacts key financial indicators. These include better cash flow, higher net profit, and improved stock performance. Three- and five-year revenues and the five-year return on equity (or ROE) also benefit from higher BIPOC numbers.

Clinical Trial Manager Diversity Can Enhance Patient Participation

Dr. Leen Kawas is a high-achieving bioscientist who previously served as Athira Pharma, Inc.’s Chief Executive Officer (or CEO). In this capacity, Dr. Kawas managed several drug candidates’ progression through the drug development cycle (including clinical trials).

Dr. Kawas knew that insufficient patient participation would halt clinical trials, bringing a drug’s development cycle to a halt. In turn, this could negatively impact the developer’s financial performance.

Multiple factors contributed to patients’ reluctance to enroll in a clinical trial. Stringent trial requirements, along with logistical issues (such as transportation and family responsibilities) were major obstacles. Unclear technical and legal jargon on the clinical trial site also proved to be a deterrent.

Patients were especially concerned about a clinical trial’s management team demographic composition. Dr. Leen Kawas noted that potential trial participants were disappointed that white men most often serve as clinical trial managers. 

Dr. Kawas felt that this visible lack of diversity discouraged many prospects from signing up for a trial for which they might otherwise be a good fit. Dr. Kawas predicted that hiring more women and minority clinical trial managers would result in a corresponding increase in clinical trial patient signups.


How Management Diversity Affects a Company’s Global and Social Impact

An organization’s management composition can influence its corporate culture. The firm’s CEO and senior executives often shape the firm’s mission, core values, communication style, and relationships with internal and external partners.

A diverse management team reflects each individual’s personal characteristics and professional talents. Each diversity-focused manager also brings an intrinsic acceptance of employees with varied cultures, backgrounds, and lifestyles.

This ready acceptance makes it easier to establish good personal and professional rapport with the firm’s employees. Dr. Leen Kawas has seen this dynamic while working with Propel Bio Partners’ biotechnology entrepreneurs.

Management Diversity’s Global Impact

A diversity-focused manager is ideally positioned for productive interactions with individuals from varied nations and cultures. In a global business, this can mean easier facilitation of business agreements and international commerce. As a Jordanian native with diverse cultural experiences, Dr. Leen Kawas feels her multinational perspective has played a key role in her career success.

Diversity-focused managers can also be viewed as the company’s brand ambassadors. As they interact with clients, external partners, and investors, they help to reflect the business’ commitment to diversity in all aspects of operations.

Management Diversity’s Social Impact

When a firm’s managers maintain a commitment to diversity, they can bring this approach into the company’s social media interactions. Many firms maintain a strong social media presence, with key personnel active on the company page along with other selected platforms.

These diversity-focused managers can also take their approach to their local, regional, and national communities. While working with business partners, and supporting non-profits’ missions, these dedicated managers can help to facilitate positive outcomes for worthy initiatives.

How Management Diversity Affects Team Satisfaction

Working on a dedicated workplace team involves ongoing collaboration with fellow team members. They often brainstorm and solve problems together, building personal rapport along with professional relationships. In this highly creative environment, the team often devises synergistic solutions and promising ideas.

Dr. Leen Kawas noted that biotechnology industry teams are often composed of talented individuals from diverse countries and backgrounds. Companies with an inclusive culture appreciate team members’ differences while affirming their common ground.

This distinctive paradigm enables the formation of superior teams, composed of team members who engage with their work on the highest level. These exceptional employees are also personally committed to the company’s success, leading to their emotional investment in each team project.

An Inclusive Manager’s Role 

An inclusive team manager is typically a key part of the equation. This diversity-focused leader acknowledges that every team member brings distinctive talents to the team’s shared goal. Team members are also supported in making authentic connections that help drive innovation and goal achievement.

As would be expected, team members who together accomplish a common goal achieve a strong sense of personal satisfaction. This sense of achievement, and recognition from management, leave team members eager to repeat this uplifting experience. 

These positive outcomes often lead to higher employee retention. This optimal result reduces the need for expensive hiring and training programs. In turn, this boosts the company’s bottom line.

Dr. Leen Kawas Advocates for Universal Management Diversity

With management diversity’s proven benefits, Dr. Leen Kawas supports the expansion of this paradigm across businesses and industries. She is confident that this seismic shift will play a key role in many companies’ continued success. 

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