<strong>Women’s leadership in the age of innovation</strong>

Women’s leadership in the age of innovation

The ‘International Innovation Barometer’ report, which was prepared by Ayming, shows that innovation in our country is still a male-dominated area. Women comprise less than half of the personnel responsible for innovation at 83 per cent of Polish organisations. In turn, a quarter of the respondents admitted that less than 10 per cent of their departments responsible for R&D work include women.

There are some organisations in which diversity, in its broadest sense, is an aspect that is particularly valued and considered to have a positive impact on development. For AstraZeneca, fostering a culture of diversity and belonging is one of its key values. “Diverse teams are more creative and imaginative, and the differences between employees are an asset that the company should make the most of. Our employment statistics speak for themselves. At AstraZeneca in Poland, almost 71 per cent of the employees are women and more than half (56.4 per cent) of the senior positions are held by women. What is more, half of the Polish management board are women,” said Alina Pszczółkowska, Vice President of the Management Board of AstraZeneca Pharma Poland.

Alina Pszczółkowska’s career path is also a perfect example of how much a woman can achieve in the field of innovation. “I have been working at AstraZeneca for 20 years and my professional journey was and continues to be fascinating. I have gained extensive experience in the Warsaw office and in one of AstraZeneca’s largest science centres in Gothenburg, Sweden. What I value most in my job is the possibility of continuous development and broadening of my competencies, which is guaranteed by my work in the Warsaw R&D centre, which is currently one of our most important R&D facilities in the world. It is also important for me to work in a scientific environment, as I enjoy the constant challenge. However, the conviction that my work has an impact on the outside world and that I am working to deliver breakthrough drug therapies and medical solutions to patients around the world is the most important,” emphasised Alina Pszczółkowska.

The company’s ambition is to create a workplace where everyone can fulfil their potential and use their skills with a sense of satisfaction. “It is important to develop such a culture and working conditions where each of the nearly 3,000 people feels that they can be themselves. It is only then that they will be able to fully exploit their abilities and not waste energy on their fears, anxieties or adapting to the organisation,” added Pszczółkowska. In addition to fostering diversity, there is another important factor that facilitates the implementation of innovations that is specific to the Polish branch of the company, i.e. efficient cooperation between different departments and functions.

The organisation in Poland grew in several areas in parallel and this showed us how extremely important cross-functional cooperation is. We make up one company, we talk, we cooperate and we do not lock ourselves in functional silos,” explained Alina Pszczółkowska.

The importance of the power of good collaboration between people when carrying out innovative projects is emphasised by Karolina Tkaczuk, Director of Innovation and Cooperation with Academia at AstraZeneca Pharma Poland. Hired by the company a few months ago, she is responsible, among other things, for finding and attracting innovative projects at various stages of development.

On a daily basis, she works with academia, research and development centres as well as innovative research centres. “The success of the fruitful collaboration between actors from such different backgrounds is the result of good communication. In order to successfully implement innovations, you must, first of all, be a ‘good translator’. The academic world has its own specific language, just like the business world. In order to skilfully transfer solutions from one world to another and manage projects, you need to be fluent in both languages so that both sides can communicate”, explained Karolina Tkaczuk.

AstraZeneca has been working with the scientific community for many years. Recently, AstraZeneca announced the launch of a new internship programme in the field of oncology together with the Polish Association of Centers for Technology Transfer.

Through a competitive process, a successful applicant will be selected to receive a one-year internship at the prestigious Institute of Cancer Research in London in early 2023. AstraZeneca is also open to collaboration with business entities: “As an innovative company, we put a lot of emphasis on cooperation with scientific centres, but we are also very interested in cooperation with start-ups, and so we are looking for entities with interesting, breakthrough solutions that we can help validate,” Tkaczuk emphasised.

Openness to ideas and solutions from different people or companies is an important characteristic of effective innovation leadership. Another is the ability to initiate and facilitate dialogue between the research and innovation community and business.

Meetings, discussions during which both sides can exchange information, learn about each other’s needs, are essential in the process of creating and implementing innovations. It is also worth remembering that no one is as smart as all the participants meeting together. If we have this attitude, we increase the chance that each party will add something of real value to the conversation,” Tkaczuk stressed.

A few years ago, it was during such a meeting, which she attended while still an employee of a Kraków start-up, that she met Alina Pszczółkowska. “I liked AstraZeneca’s approach to innovation, its openness and courage to cooperate with young companies and its willingness to build a dialogue with public institutions. That is why when I was offered this position, I did not hesitate even for a moment,” Karolina Tkaczuk said.

Another key element of innovation leadership is the issue of constructive, positive feedback, noticing and highlighting the strengths of colleagues as well as not being afraid of failure.

It is important to remember that failures are not fatal and each failure brings us closer to success. It is worth simply drawing conclusions from them and boldly moving on, enriched with newly acquired knowledge”, Karolina Tkaczuk said.

At the end of this road awaits the satisfaction of having implemented a breakthrough solution which cannot be achieved without cooperation and mutual support.

Last Updated on December 9, 2022 by Anastazja Lach