Diversity and inclusion at AstraZeneca

Perhaps more than ever, the global response to COVID-19 has seen the work of the pharmaceutical industry placed under the spotlight.

The world has watched in real time as vaccines have been developed, produced and distributed. There has been an unprecedented focus on a process that usually takes place quietly – often over many years. The events of the last year will have acted as a reminder of the enormous power and impact of science and medicine.

What we hope they have also highlighted is the importance of collaborative and creative thinking – experts working together across boundaries and disciplines, applying their skills and knowledge to tackle a global challenge.

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Our industry has learned that this kind of innovative and creative thinking needs a range of voices and points of view. Breakthrough ideas come from a diverse team made up of different experiences, backgrounds, strengths and weaknesses. But the differences we bring are only as powerful as the inclusive environment we create.

In order to achieve the results that will ultimately deliver the next wave of life-changing medicines to patients, our industry also needs to create an environment where people feel they belong and are empowered to challenge conventional thinking.

The importance of diversity is an issue that has been front and centre recently, and companies have an obligation to the public and their stakeholders to tackle injustice and inequality. It’s the right thing to do of course, but diversity and inclusion is also fundamental to success. In our industry, the medicines we develop must take into account the diversity of patients affected by the illnesses they are designed to treat.

Industry leaders must commit to inclusion and diversity so we can continue to make a meaningful impact to our society. At AstraZeneca, this commitment is driven from the top. It is woven throughout the fabric of our organisation and measured alongside company performance.

We aim to create an inclusive workforce that reflects the diversity of our communities and the patients we help. But we can only do this by tracking our progress against several important diversity factors – one of which is women in leadership roles.

Historically a male-dominated industry, over the last decade our sector has seen real, positive change in terms of the make-up of its workforce. As the recently published Hampton-Alexander Review highlights, companies in our industry have now recorded 31.8% makeup of women on their boards and 35.5% makeup of women in executive committees or those who report into them.

At AstraZeneca, we’re proud that women make up 46.9% of our management teams – and we’ll keep pushing for more progress. Having female leaders is important, but we know that ideas, initiatives, and contributions can come from anywhere in an organisation and are proud that half of our total workforce is female.

Of course, there is always more to do, and the industry cannot afford to regard the encouraging results of the Hampton-Alexander Review as representing an action ticked off on a list.

We must continue to constantly push for increased diversity in our teams and work together as an industry to increase the opportunities for women at all levels to enter and thrive in the sector. It is our unwavering belief that the most diverse organisations are the ones who will be able to most effectively contribute to patients and society over the years to come.


Rebekah Martin is senior vice president of reward and inclusion at AstraZeneca