Feature Stories

Personal Experiences Inspire Involvement

Nov 5, 2019

We highlight our commitment to Diversity & Inclusion through our employee profile series and recently spoke with Gigi Schwerdtfeger, Astellas Regulatory submissions specialist. Gigi is also the communications chair of our Abilities Employee Impact Group, which works to raise awareness of people living with disabilities and support employees and their families who are differently abled. Gigi shares her personal experience with physical disabilities and why Astellas’ commitment to fostering a diverse workforce is so important.

How has the Abilities EIG raised awareness during October’s National Disability Employment Month, and throughout the rest of the year?

Last month was National Disability Employment Awareness month, which is an important time, and the few months leading up to it are very busy. Some of the events our EIG coordinated were performances by the Special Gifts Theatre group, Autism Speaks, Mental Health First Aid Training, Special Olympics and holiday baking at Lambs Farm – a community center for disabled adults.  Additionally, year-round, the Abilities EIG offers an autism support group where employees can talk to others who have gone through similar experiences or simply learn about related benefits.

How does your personal experience inspire your involvement in the Abilities Employee Impact Group?

From a very young age, I was exposed to family members with physical disabilities. My father suffered from debilitating conditions as the result of strokes, my uncle has multiple sclerosis, and my cousin has muscular dystrophy. Not long before I began working at Astellas, I was in a serious car accident that put me in a wheelchair for six months. Throughout the years, I observed people treating my family members differently - for example, assuming my father’s mind didn’t work because he was handicapped.

The work being done by the Abilities EIG goes a long way in raising awareness of the issues that those living with disabilities face. The Group also provides a safe place for members to openly share their experiences and gain support, so they don’t feel alone.

What’s your perspective on the importance of diversity and inclusion to Astellas and our industry?

Since joining Astellas in 2007, I have seen a growing commitment to foster a diverse workforce and inclusive environment that boosts our ability to meet the needs of our patients, our community, and our employees. As a global company, we have opportunities every day to learn from one another and observe what makes each of us unique. We must continue to evolve and treat each and every person equally – not only is it the right thing to do, it is important for our business and our culture of patient focus.

Is there anything else you would like to share?

Remember that whether one has a disability that can or cannot be seen, everyone deserves to be treated equally.