The Astellas Way Blog

“Diversity” and “Inclusion” Are More Than Just Words At Astellas

By Jim Robinson, President, Astellas Americas

Jul 13, 2017

A recent commentary in Harvard Business Review began with the sentence, “Striving to increase workplace diversity is not an empty slogan – it is a good business decision.” The piece goes on to cite numerous analyses showing that diverse and inclusive teams yield more fact-based thinking, objectivity and careful processing of information, among other benefits.

Since its founding, Astellas has prided itself as a home to diverse backgrounds, cultures, viewpoints and experiences. In an increasingly interconnected world, we have opportunities every day to learn from one another and observe what makes our team unique.

Today, medical invention is directly tied to our ability to work together and fulfill a commitment to patients that is propelled by constantly challenging the status quo. To fully succeed, however – and bring all of our ideas to the table in a cohesive manner – we must come together to celebrate our differences, and give back to the communities where our employees live and work.

Our teams at Astellas are doing just that and much more. With each year, we see a growing commitment to foster an inclusive environment that fully embraces the professional goals and personal experiences of all of our team members. With our Employee Resource Groups (ERGs), we provide the opportunity to connect and build communities around shared goals and interests. Since 2014, our company has formed seven ERGs: Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, Queer/Questioning, and Allies (LGBTQA); Military; Women; African American; Asian; Hispanic; and People Living with Disabilities.

I’d like to share just a few examples of how our ERGs are playing a key role within our company.

Just last month, Together As One (TAO), Astellas’ LGBTQA ERG, led a group of employees, family and friends of employees as they marched in Chicago’s annual PRIDE parade. This marks Astellas’ eighth year of participation in the parade, and we’re looking forward to joining again next year.

Our employees also participated last month in the annual One Astellas Spirit Run, a 5K race that takes place during our National Sales Forum. All proceeds from the event were donated to seven cause-oriented, non-profit organizations selected by our ERGs. Running in the race, I had an opportunity to see the Astellas community in action – the sense of solidarity was palpable.

Last year, our People Living with Disabilities ERG dedicated time to helping community members within and beyond our walls. The ERG formed a support group for colleagues impacted by autism spectrum disorder to discuss common experiences in a safe and nonjudgmental environment, and a group of Astellas employees volunteered their time to support the residents of a local nonprofit organization committed to creating innovative opportunities, services and support for people with disabilities.

By far the largest of Astellas’ employee resource groups, Stellar Women has more than 700 members who work to create an environment of empowerment to advance and inspire women in the company. In 2016, the ERG participated in Astellas’ inaugural Women in Action Summit, which led to more than a doubling of Stellar Women’s membership in a matter of days. At the end of last year, women comprised 53 percent of Astellas’ workforce in the U.S. and accounted for 58 percent of promotions.

Our unwavering commitment to men and women with military experience also has been at the center of our community efforts. Through our Military Employee Resource Group (MERG), we are able to offer a dedicated space to connect with one another. To honor the sacrifices of our servicemen and servicewomen, last year Astellas created a Heroes Garden at our Northbrook headquarters. Just last week, MERG members volunteered at the 2017 Warrior Games in Chicago, an annual sports competition created by the U.S. Department of Defense for seriously wounded, ill and injured service members and veterans.

There are countless other examples I could mention, but let me conclude where I began.

The HBR commentary I mentioned at the outset also cited research showing that gender and cultural diversity generate more innovative thinking and higher levels of product development. For example, the authors point to a study that found “companies with more women were more likely to introduce radical new innovations into the market over a two-year period.”

For a research-based company such as Astellas, dedicated to developing new medical innovations to patients in need, such qualities are paramount.

We embrace diversity and inclusion in all forms… not only because it’s smart business, but because it’s the right thing to do as good corporate citizens. While we may use galvanizing phrases such as “Changing Tomorrow” and “One Astellas,” these are more than slogans. The efforts of our ERGs, our daily commitment to support all employees, and our laser focus on attracting and retaining the best people bring these principles to life and help us better serve our patients.