Biopharmaceutical firm establishes a foundation of equity and diversity in the workplace
AstraZeneca, one of the world’s leading biopharmaceutical companies, is playing a pivotal role in developing life-changing medicines from its Canadian headquarters and clinical research hub in Mississauga.
“We are very fortunate for the investment the City has made in the life sciences community and the collaboration that is growing the sector,” says Gena Restivo, Vice President of Human Resources and Sustainability at AstraZeneca Canada.
The scale of the biotechnology sector in Mississauga – the second largest life sciences cluster in Canada by employment – means there is very strong demand for a highly educated talent pool, particularly with a background in STEMM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics and medicine), says Carlo Mastrangelo, Head of Sustainability and Communications.
“When universities, research organizations, scientific institutions, world-class hospitals and private companies work together, it elevates our collective ability to attract and hire the best in the field.”
The company has a strong partnership with the University of Toronto Mississauga, and has hired more than 100 students through its Masters of Biotechnology program, over the last 15 years. Many have remained with AstraZeneca Canada, advancing into national and global careers.
AstraZeneca, which has a core focus in oncology, rare diseases, cardiovascular, respiratory and immunology, vaccines and immune therapies, offers an environment that supports continuous employee growth and where diversity, equity and inclusion are promoted and valued throughout the organization.
“As a science-led biopharmaceutical company, we believe inclusion and diversity are absolutely fundamental to our purpose and ability to push the boundaries of science to deliver lifechanging medicines,” says Restivo.
”Innovation requires breakthrough ideas that only come from a diverse workforce empowered to challenge conventional thinking and find new ways to solve challenges.”
Reflecting the diversity of community is not only the right thing to do, it offers a strategic advantage, says Mastrangelo.
“Valuing diverse experiences, expertise, backgrounds and ways of thinking means we can generate more creative ideas to tackle complex problems. It makes an exponential impact on our competitiveness.”
AstraZeneca is a key player on the City of Mississauga’s Equity & Diversity Collaborative – a consortium of health-care and life sciences companies dedicated to advancing gender equity and diversity in the workplace.
“By putting our competitive differences aside and coming together to share best practices and resources, we’re having a greater impact in affecting change in our organizations and community,” says Jaime Duguid, Senior Manager, Talent, Development, Culture & Inclusion.
”We are improving recruitment, hiring and promotion practices that are driving greater equity and diversity.”
The company is also a supporter of the gender equity initiative Girls Belong Here, which aims to tackle gender equality and girls’ rights around the world, including in Canada by boosting female representation in STEMM fields and in boardrooms.
AstraZeneca Canada employs about 700 people in Mississauga and more than 1,200 across Canada. Mississauga is a strategic clinical research hub, leading more than 100 global clinical studies, many of these in oncology and respiratory, and delivering 174 clinical studies here in Canada.
Access to a great scientific talent base, as well as world-class local hospitals and researchers, has helped the clinical trial teams at AstraZeneca grow to more than 450 employees , a number that was less than 100 just a few years ago.
“Building our clinical footprint in Canada means that Canadian patients are getting access to cutting-edge medicines earlier and we are creating a clinical cluster within Mississauga that is great for talent attraction,” says Restivo.
The company has been selected a Top Employer in the Greater Toronto Area eight consecutive years, a reflection of its efforts to nurture a diverse and inclusive culture, support employee well-being, and create an engaging work environment.
“That’s really important recognition for us. We are a company with a bold purpose – developing life-changing medicines – and having highly engaged and talented employees is critical to our delivering on that purpose.”