Home Alcon Diversity and Inclusion Initiatives Make Great Business Sense on Every Level

Diversity and Inclusion Initiatives Make Great Business Sense on Every Level

Diversity officer Kristen Weirick
Kristen Weirick

Creating a diverse, equitable and inclusive workplace is not only the right thing to do, but it also has business value, says Kristen Weirick, vice president, global talent acquisition and chief diversity officer at Alcon. Diversity and inclusion (or D&I, as Alcon terms it) is fundamental to Alcon’s vision and focus to “help people see brilliantly. It means we are better positioned to meet the needs of customers and employees and drive innovation,” Weirick says.

D&I extends far beyond talent acquisition and searching for the right, diverse candidates for open positions. “We need to ensure that a D&I ‘lens’ is applied to everything we do, including embedding D&I in our workplace culture. In 2022, for example, Alcon launched Elevate Brilliantly, a six-part series designed to align employees to Alcon’s desired culture. The series began with a focus on inclusion, including how to build inclusion into the culture and deliver it back to the business.


The first step in driving a D&I strategy is to complete a thorough evaluation of how D&I is imbedded into the organization. To do this, ask questions like, is D&I part of the learning and development training? Is the executive leadership team involved? Is D&I considered in performance management? After exploring these questions and others, Weirick developed a D&I strategy organized by three pillars: fostering a culture of inclusion, growing diverse talent, and creating impactful connections

Under Weirick’s leadership at Alcon, each of these pillars is backed by meaningful action. For example, one of the ways Alcon “creates impactful connections” is to engage associates through their employee resource groups (ERGs). As Weirick points out, since rolling out our D&I strategy, ERGs have played a larger role in driving our strategy and have become very popular at Alcon. “We saw a 46% growth in ERGs in 2022, showing both engagement and an appetite for getting involved,” she says. Alcon has nine ERGs that are sponsored by senior executives of the company and drive the programming to advance the company’s D&I strategy. For example, ERGs have launched mentoring programs and they’ve brought to campus inspiring speakers such as Dr. Bernice King during Black History Month and Carla Harris, Vice Chairman at Morgan Stanley for Women’s History Month.


After years of experience launching and cultivating D&I initiatives at various companies including Alcon, Weirick offers her keys to success:

  • Customize your approach by taking into account multiple stakeholders. For example, “How do you meet the needs of your customers and employees?” For example, does the staffing of your team match the demographics of the community? Are the images on the website and in-office materials representative of the communities served? Then customize the approach for reaching out depending on those needs. “Within Alcon, we customize our approach to hiring and developing talent based on the diverse needs of the company. It forces us to be creative and consider how can we expand where we find diverse talent.”
  • Ask, imagine or recall how it feels to be an outsider. “I moved to South America when I was not even 20. I looked different; I didn’t speak the language,” she says. Imagine how outsiders feel in your workplace environment. As you explore ways to make your organization more inclusive and imagine or recall how it feels to be an outsider, keep this question top of mind, “what can be done to make the customer and associate experience more welcoming?”
  • Recruit early. On a national and profession-wide level, that can mean early engagement with students – long before they get to optometry or even undergraduate school. “For example, many U.S. airlines have a goal to increase the diversity of its pilots, which is traditionally a male-dominated field. It takes 10 years to develop and train a widebody airline pilot – so that shows how far ahead this initiative has to go.”

The same is true for optometry and ophthalmology. Eye care professionals who want to see a more diverse and inclusive profession in the future need to engage now with students early in their education to excite and engage them about a career in vision care. Talking with high school students and/or providing internships can get high school students interested in careers in STEM.


“D&I is not just looking for diversity in hiring. It’s a facet of everything I do every day. It’s not an add-on but an adjustment to how you operate. It’s the fabric of an organization,” she says. “It is the dream of all D&I leaders to be obsolete, to know that every employee and customer is accepted and valued for what they bring.” But until such a time, start with recognition. Understand how diversity and inclusion initiatives can broaden your appeal to potential employees and customers and create a welcoming workplace for current employees and customers. The business benefits will flow from these changes, she says.

Read other WO stories from women ODs who are having success with Alcon products.




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