Michael Bonney, CEO of Cubist, 2013 Catalyst Award honoree, shares his view on diversity & STEM

Science Club for Girls selected Cubist Pharmaceuticals and its Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Michael Bonney as the 2013 Catalyst Award corporate honoree because of the company’s outstanding record of diversity on its board, senior leadership team and staff. This reflects Mr. Bonney’s leadership and dedication to creating an inclusive organization.

According to the National Science Foundation, women still comprise less than 30 percent of the science and engineering workforce, while under-represented minorities make up about 10% of this group. We asked Cubist and Mr. Bonney to share the reasons why building an inclusive STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) community is important.
Michael Bonney, CEO of Cubist Pharmaceuticals
Why is Cubist invested in increasing diversity in STEM?
All of our efforts are borne out of a belief that we need to prepare the next generation of leaders in the life sciences who will be involved in developing future innovations to help improve the quality of life for people around the world, including new medicines, alternative energy sources and new ways to help feed our growing world population.

For Massachusetts to continue to have a world-renowned life sciences cluster made up of teaching hospitals, biopharmaceutical companies and venture capital, we need to focus on developing a skilled and educated workforce. We need to be able to develop and discern the best technological solutions to address challenges.

It is clear that there is a huge opportunity to increase the enthusiasm for STEM-related studies and career paths among young people. Cubist has embraced our responsibility to help ensure there is a strong and diverse pipeline of STEM talent.

What has Cubist done to increase young people’s interest in STEM?
One of the ways we do this is by opening our doors to young people, particularly those who may not have as many opportunities to be exposed to science. When they visit Cubist, see our labs, participate in hands-on activities and hear from our employees, they are able to see how what they are learning in the classroom translates into solving real problems such as helping patients tackle serious, life-threatening infections.

We also help them to see the broad spectrum of opportunities—there are a range of skills, education and experience required for various jobs. For example, some jobs in life sciences require an associate’s degree while others require a Ph.D.; and generally, STEM jobs tend to be higher-paying jobs than other jobs.

Why is it important to invest in pre-college STEM outreach programs?
Over the last several years, our philanthropic efforts have been focused on supporting organizations like Science Club for Girls, that offer programs to middle- and high-school students, particularly in underserved communities. It is important to engage young people at the middle- and high-school level because research shows that it is during this part of a student’s life that the spark either gets lit or not.

Recent data such as the Trends in International Math & Science Study show Massachusetts eighth-grade students are performing well in math and science, but for us to be even more competitive in the global economy, we need to continue to make STEM education a priority. I think there is an opportunity for all of us—educators, policy makers, nonprofit organizations and the business community—to re-double our efforts to engage young people in STEM boost academic achievement and spark interest in careers in related fields.

On a personal note, who is your favorite author?
It’s a tie between Doris Kearns-Goodwin and David McCullough—I think you can guess that I’m a fan of history!

What do you do to relax?
I really enjoy doing just about anything outdoors. My favorite activities are fly-fishing just about anywhere in the world, as well as hiking and canoeing.

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