Mariana Fagnilli: From International Human Rights Law to Global D&I Leader

Fagnilli leverages her worldly experiences and path of self-discovery in her new role as the first-ever head of D&I at global healthcare-products firm Catalent.

Mariana Fagnilli, Global Head, Office of Diversity & Inclusion, CatalentPhoto: Rodrigo Mendoza

Mariana Fagnilli has always been a spokesperson for humanity. She was born, raised, and educated in Argentina. She studied to become a human rights lawyer, then used her expertise to carry global relationships forward in multiple companies, focusing on government affairs and policy. Throughout this work, she sought any opportunity to touch lives around the world.

When Fagnilli came to the United States to develop her career, she began to notice that her identity had changed, which started her on new a journey of discovery. Rather than being considered European as she had been in Argentina, she was now considered Latina.

“My journey as a Latina is only eighteen years old,” she explains. “It was phenomenal to find myself belonging to a group that I never thought I had belonged to before. With a chance to articulate myself differently, I was able to appreciate the Latino culture much better after I had adopted that identity.”

Eventually, Fagnilli connected with her new identity, and carried her experience of self-discovery with her as she continued her career-long passion for defending human rights. During a ten-year tenure focused on government affairs and building strategic relationships at Johnson & Johnson, Fagnilli realized there was another side to human rights that she had not explored before—one that honed specifically on generating a sense of belonging in the workplace environment.

From that moment on, she decided to invest in a career that centered on diversity and inclusion (D&I). For Fagnilli, D&I not only created a comprehensive sense of acceptance among a company’s employees, it also opened her own eyes to the role this acceptance played within the bigger picture of a company’s operations and, subsequently, consumers’ lives.

“I discovered that this path brought more value to my work because it connected me much more to the company, the employees, and to my roots—my young Latino communities. It made it all so much more meaningful,” Fagnilli shares. “This work brings awareness to the company that allows it to appeal to specific demographics and their preferences so that it can then create better products and treatments as a result.”

After gaining her initial experience at Johnson & Johnson, Fagnilli decided she wanted to fully commit to a D&I role within another reputable global company. She found Catalent, a world-leading firm focused on the development, delivery, and supply of drugs, biologics, and consumer health products. Catalent’s CEO and leadership team welcomed Fagnilli wholeheartedly as the company’s first-ever head of D&I, reflecting their deep commitment to embedding D&I as a core strategy within the organization.

Internally, the senior leadership team wanted to ensure that Catalent manifested a welcoming, inspiring, and rewarding environment. They wanted employees to feel appreciated in their current work, but also that they had the freedom to grow beyond their role at their own pace. With that as a goal, the company integrated Fagnilli’s work into its operational framework. Now, she stands as the global head for the office of diversity and inclusion and has revolutionized the way the company thinks about hiring, planning, recognition, and promotions.

Within her role, Fagnilli uses her own experience as an Argentinian immigrant to develop a comprehensive approach to integrating D&I into Catalent’s DNA. Her goal is to incorporate a D&I mentality across the entire organization, so that employees across the board commit to recruiting in a way that is mindful of how the business will function moving forward. In other words, Fagnilli hopes to promote certain micro-behaviors that are practiced daily and can be measured to show change overtime.

“When these habits are put into action in an environment that supports honest conversation and healthy tension, real change becomes possible,” she says. “When people incorporate D&I best practices into their everyday habits and work routines without even realizing it, then I will feel that we are making great progress.”

Since the launch of D&I programs at Catalent started just one year ago, Fagnilli, with the support of the senior leadership team and the Global Diversity & Inclusion Council that she chairs, has spearheaded efforts to broaden the scope of recruitment methods to include global talent acquisition and female representation. She has also harnessed the power of storytelling to share the stories of employees already ingrained in the institution, heightening levels of engagement and creating a greater sense of community. These experiences have reminded everyone of both their shared and unique experiences while reaffirming their appreciation and connection to the value each member brings to the table.

“In many ways, these efforts allow people to know themselves better,” Fagnilli expresses. “It’s helping us create a culture of inclusion, where people are aware of their behaviors and actions. We’ve noticed teams come up with better outcomes, be more creative with their thinking, and want to participate more on assignments. Everyone helps each other more because they are more conscious about our higher process.”

“In many ways, [D&I] efforts allow people to know themselves better. We’ve noticed teams come up with better outcomes, be more creative with their thinking, and want to participate more on assignments.”

As Fagnilli’s work continues to advance, she hopes to solidify a sense of opportunity and belonging within Catalent’s workforce. This year, she commenced the next layer of her work: connecting people of different parts of the organization with the company’s leaders and members of the company’s Employee Resource Groups. She hopes that these efforts will open dialogues about D&I throughout the organization.

In addition, she is expanding the department’s focus on people to include systems, as well. “While we educate and bring awareness and connect individuals, we also need to create the proper systems, policies, and practices to support D&I in the long run,” she explains.

While her endeavors require ongoing cooperation and improvements, Fagnilli says that her ultimate goal is: “To build Catalent into a sustainable business that uses its range of backgrounds, cultures, ideas, and talents to address global healthcare challenges, while remaining as a place where everyone can realize their dreams.”