Beyond June: Pride is a year-round event


Rebekah Martin, HR SVP, Reward & Inclusion

Pride events take place around the world each June to celebrate the progression of equal rights, representation and expression in the LGBTQIA+ community. The annual parades, festivals and campaigns serve as platforms to share the community’s important history, rich culture and vision for the future.

We can easily be swept up in the bright colours, elaborate costumes and optimistic messages that we see at these events. There is also a lot more to Pride – it is part of an ongoing movement to address the prejudice and persecution that many LGBTQIA+ individuals still face today. At AstraZeneca, we believe continued progress is possible when we focus on these issues year-round, and not just between 1 June and 30 June.

While attending Manchester Pride last year, my colleague, Juliette White, VP External Sourcing, and LGBTQIA+ ally, summed it up well: it is easy to show up when it’s fun and when other people are around but being a true ally is about being prepared to show up, sometimes when no one else does.

We recognise and celebrate Pride in exciting ways each year. We are also acutely focused on the needs and perspectives of our employees and what ongoing progress is needed. As a company, our efforts in support of the LGBTQIA+ community are always evolving and through our speak-up culture, we encourage regular dialogue between employees and leadership to foster change. These conversations matter – they enable all AstraZeneca employees to feel empowered bringing their full selves to work and to be represented and heard.

Language matters. We use the term Family Friendly Leave to cover maternity leave, adoption leave, shared parental leave and new parent leave (historically referred to as paternity leave).

“Before my partner gave birth to our daughter, people used to ask ‘as a woman, are you entitled to paternity leave?’ It might seem like a small detail, but the appropriate language is incredibly important in making each of us feel included. It felt great to explain that I was taking new parent leave.”

Gill Hayes Director, Global Operations Communications

Representation matters. Upon receiving employee feedback, we updated the gender options in employees’ internal profiles, which are now listed as: Female, Gender Non-Binary, Male, Not Disclosed.

“Life sometimes feels like being asked if I need a fork or a knife, but I’m holding a bowl of soup. Representation, in a drop-down menu, can seem relatively insignificant; but when you’ve never imagined that option before, it feels life changing. I’m so grateful that AstraZeneca took this step toward creating space for everyone in this world.”

SJ Newcomb Validation Technician

Our colleagues’ voices matter. AZPride is our global Employee Resource Group network dedicated to empowering LGBTQIA+ people to reach their full potential. Our country chapters provide development and training opportunities for employees, and work with our active ally community to build knowledge and understanding of the unique challenges LGBTQIA+ people may face in the workforce.

Authenticity matters. Employees around the company have recorded themselves sharing their personal experiences – some positive, others quite difficult - as LGBTQIA+ individuals. Through real stories, they hope to shed light on the progress that has been made and the areas in which much improvement is needed.

Connection matters. We host events, including Inclusion & Diversity Summits, at AstraZeneca sites around the world, during which employees hear from internal and external thought leaders, connect with peers and identify areas to continue improving our efforts. Following employee feedback, this year, we will increase the impact of these events by holding them during our annual Power of Diversity week in November.

Leadership matters. AstraZeneca CEO, Pascal Soriot. chairs our global Inclusion and Diversity Council, which focuses on building a more open and inclusive culture where diversity of thought can flourish.

Partnership matters. Joining the Proud Science Alliance to march at London Pride is an opportunity to connect with industry partners who share the same passion for LGBTQIA+ equality and show up as a unified force. Though in-person events are cancelled this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we look forward to continuing this partnership. 

We recognise that having as many different perspectives as possible at the table is fundamental to being able to deliver life-changing medicines to patients because diversity of thought helps drive innovation. Setting aside a specific time of year to honour the LGBTQIA+ community is important. Even more important is a commitment to making tangible progress year-round to advance equality for this community.