Executive Provides Mentorship and Promotes Diversity at Genentech

Genentech logo on large outdoor sign

There is a concept held dear by many that there is strength in diversity. At South San Francisco-based Genentech, that is a concept also embraced by Sara Kenkare-Mitra, senior vice president of development sciences.

In an interview with the San Francisco Business Times, Kenkare-Mitra talked about her efforts to mentor colleagues as well as recruit more women and minorities to the company, a subsidiary of pharma giant Roche. In her leadership role, Kenkare-Mitra told the Business Times that she wants to help people grow in their roles “in a way that truly inspires them” and then being supportive of those decisions. When talking with the Business Times, Kenkare-Mitra shared the advice that she gives to all those she mentors and recruits –“Be curious, be a learner and take risks.” That’s the same advice that she herself follows.

Click to search for life sciences jobs

Kenkare-Mitra sits on the board member of the Genentech Foundation, which is one way that she has been able to drive attempts to improve diversity at the Bay Area company. She told the Business Times that she believes it is important to recruit more women and minorities to bolster the ranks of Genentech. Kenkare-Mitra added that she also uses her platform to promote general interest in science and math outside the company – perhaps as a way to encourage future entrants into the industry.

In October, BioSpace highlighted some of the indications of a good culture at a company -- any company in any industry. Diversity was one of those indications. Strong companies embrace diversity. It is important to have diversity in hiring, diversity in thought, and diversity in approaches.

While Kenkare-Mitra is pushing for greater diversity at Genentech, other companies and organizations across the industry are also embracing the need for diversity. In the fall of 2018, Biotechnology Innovation Organization (BIO) issued a letter to its member companies this week demanding companies achieve gender diversity on its boards of directors within the next six years. BIO is calling for member companies to raise female representation at the senior management and leadership level to 50 percent by 2025. In its letter, BIO called for members to “embrace equality and inclusiveness, confront unconscious bias, and address sexist biases in all aspects of the biotechnology ecosystem.”

A few months ahead of BIO’s call for greater gender diversity, Pfizer released an ad that celebrates diversity in its employment. The commercial includes a mixed-race child, a Muslim woman in a hijab, as well as other images of diversity. The people in the commercial are all Pfizer scientists and were featured as part of the company’s “Driven to Discover” campaign.

In the commercial, the employees express that they come from different places, look and live differently from each other and also worship differently. Despite those differences, the Pfizer employees said they all share a vision to “bring the boldest, brightest thinking to the search for life-saving cures. Built on one shared understanding of the power of science.”

Not only are companies pushing diversity of employment in the industry, but Amgen has also been openly supportive of promoting diversity in clinical trials. At the end of 2018, Amgen provided $2 million to the nonprofit Lazarex Cancer Foundation to support an effort to improve minority patient access to the potentially life-saving drugs in oncology clinical trials.

Back to news