Inclusion at Astellas: Celebrating Black History Month with the African American Employee Impact Group (AAEIG)

At Astellas, raising awareness among employees of the many contributions of Black Americans to history and culture is a top priority for Black History Month in partnership with our African American Employee Impact Group (AAEIG). Among the AAEIG’s activities for this year’s Black History Month celebration is the Brown Bag Series, a series of lunch break conversations featuring Astellas leadership and external speakers that examines historic facts and current affairs to inform the future, including focusing on mental and financial wellness. The session entitled “We Wear the Mask: It's Okay to Not Be Okay,” looks at mental health and wellness issues impacting the Black community, and how to improve access to the right care.

“This is different than your traditional Black History Month, where we talk about Black leaders and cultural milestones. This year, we’re really using historic facts to drive programming that’s culturally  relevant to the employee experience and moving the needle for future generations. How do we take our past and use it as a platform to identify resource?” shared Kendra Neely-Martin, AAEIG Culture Lead and Sales Representative, Urology and Oncology.

In addition to Black History Month, the AAEIG puts on programming year-round including driving regular conversations about how diversity is addressed across teams at Astellas, particularly at leadership levels.  Another core component of the AAEIG is partnering with the US Commercial division to attract Black talent to Astellas through partnerships with networking organizations such as National Sales Network that support the professional and developmental needs of sales and sales management professionals. In addition, the AAEIG has represented Astellas at the National Medical Association to increase physician awareness of the Astellas portfolio as well as the disease state of Black patients. 

“We want to underscore the importance of representation, including diverse representation in clinical trials for disease states that affect Black individuals,” shared Chris Williams, AAEIG Commerce Lead and Sales Representative, Oncology. “Diversity in clinical trial participation helps further understand how medicines work in historically under-represented populations and can help close health disparity gaps.”

Astellas showcases its commitment to diversity not only through culture and D&I opportunities, but also through its benefits, such as volunteerism benefits, which gives all employees five paid days off a year to participate in volunteer work, and the Heritage Holiday, a floating holiday that allows employees to celebrate a day that is culturally relevant to them.

Through these benefits, Kendra is able to dedicate time to her volunteer priorities, such as the mentoring and scholarship non-profit she founded, Backpacks to Briefcase, that focuses on helping college students build the soft skills to succeed in the corporate world, in addition to supporting or contributing support to other colleagues’ causes. “Some colleagues drive several hours to help support volunteer activities, and we all take a volunteer day together which helps make a greater impact and strengthen cross functional collaborations. The value of commitment to community is truly here at Astellas,” according to Kendra.   

One core business impact of Astellas’ commitment to D&I is in innovation, and an instrumental part of innovating is looking around the room and seeing who is not accounted for. By having diversity of thought, experiences, values, status, and more, Astellas can continue to innovate and grow.

For this reason, seeing the example set by leadership at Astellas is an important part of D&I conversations. “Many of our leaders have all done a great job of sharing feelings and values around bringing your whole self to work and Astellas does a great job of keeping the conversation alive,” shared Chris. “A lot of leaders and organizations can learn from what Astellas is trying to do.”

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