“You cannot criticise what you have not tried to change” David Dent MBE FloD, Executive Director, Parexel Biotech

After acquiring an injury in combat while serving in Bosnia, IoD member David Dent became an executive director, implementing the lessons in leadership he learnt from his time in the Army. His inspiring story reminds us that it’s never too late to start something new.

I have always thrived in environments that challenge me – I never shy away from accountability and pressure. I think that’s what motivated me to transition from a nursing career in Edinburgh to be a critical care and trauma nurse in the Army. The military taught me a lot about service leadership and the importance of professionalism, particularly in life and death scenarios.

Whilst I was serving in Bosnia in 1995, I suffered a blast injury from a missile which resulted in the deterioration of my neurological function. Four years later, I sustained further damage to my neck and back whilst providing medical cover for ATO (Bomb Disposal) and became a wheelchair user. As much as I had loved my time in the Army, I decided to see this as a new challenge and transition into the business world. I wanted to take what I had learnt previously and apply it to the private sector. Having worked closely with patients all my working life, I felt that clinical research was the missing step in my experience, and so I joined Parexel, one of the world’s largest clinical research organizations. Patients and helping others has been the consistent thread throughout my whole career.

I have experienced life both without and with a disability; this has given me a insightful dual view on the world. I recognise that my education and training as a person without a disability gave me access to more opportunities than if I had been born disabled. Unfortunately I have been subject to physical and verbal abuse because of my disability and this has heightened my awareness of discrimination towards other marginalised groups.

At Parexel we are working hard to provide an inclusive and diverse working environment for our colleagues. We have at least 40% female representation at every level of the business and our new board is comprised of 57% females including 29% females of colour. Our organization is constantly looking to expand our culture of inclusion to ensure talent is recognized and creating pathways for sponsorship and advancement. Change only happens when you are truly invested and the intention must be authentic and genuinely embraced across the organisation.

Men also need to be open to learning more of their own responsibility and role to play in advancing equity and a culture of inclusion.

There is a lack of lived experience within business when it comes to disability so I am happy to share my experience with the hope it will inspire change. I have never let my disability hold me back and I have enjoyed volunteering with people with disabilities, students and veterans and I am proud of my involvement in para sports, including the adaptive Highland Games!

I joined the IoD to be a part of the voice of UK business which influences government  and in 2023 it is my ambition to encourage business to become more inclusive. I believe that you cannot criticise what you have not tried to change. Research from McKinsey has shown that businesses that are more diverse are consistently more profitable. I would like to help more people understand that to be inclusive is to have good business sense.

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