AtraZeneca president: We need more women in tech

Elaine Campbell

It’s only been a few weeks since Elaine Campbell was appointed to the MaRS Discovery District’s board of directors, but she’s already excited about changing things up.

“I joined the board at the same time as Elyse Allan of GE Canada,” The president of AstraZeneca Canada told, acknowledging the few women and fewer female leaders in technology. “So there’s definitely a shift here to say ‘bring some different voices and different experiences to the board.’”

Campbell said her interest in MaRS started a long time ago while she was working in the United States.

And soon after her return to Toronto last January, Campbell strongly expressed a desire to be involved and engaged somehow with the University of Toronto or its faculty of engineering. Her meetings with people at the Ministry of Health and networking paid off, with her appointment to MaRS’ board announced this past February.

“I guess I surfaced as someone both interested and energized about the MaRS model and engaged with the University,” she explained. “And so basically I was invited to come and join the board.”

Campbell is clearly excited about the institute’s concept of connecting entrepreneurs and ideas with funding and the potential for commercializing.

“When I see the kinds of projects that have been selected, they are good solid projects that are encouraging entrepreneurs and building new skills in the community,” she said.

Campbell also considers this a great opportunity for women in technology and for her to be a role model in leadership.

“I’m really pretty excited to be joining with another new member that’s also a corporate leader and a woman,” she said. “I think we have a unique opportunity.”

While Campbell said it would be important to be looking at what her and Allan’s new membership could bring, she said it was way too soon for her to determine any kind of specifics.

Still, for women who are looking to follow a similar path towards leadership and involvement, Campbell had some simple advice. “If you want to create or forge relationships, you have to spend a little bit of time with people,” she said.

And, she adds, don’t be afraid to publicize your intentions. “When I want something to happen I just declare it,” Campbell said. “You just create paths and look for connections.”

Campbell said she’s been connected to speaking engagements and opportunities to talk to women about leadership because she had made her interest in the topic well known.

Joining groups like the Women’s Executive Network and the Healthcare Business Woman’s Association was also highly recommended by Campbell. “The first thing you do is get connected to the community of women’s leaders,” she said. “Meet other people and then decide where you want to make a difference. Use those networks and connections to move into that space.”

Finally, Campbell said businesses and institutes like MaRS always welcome passionate interest for professional partnerships. “If you go to them and say, ‘I want to work for you to be aligned with your mission and work with you to accomplish your goals’ there’s no organization that’s going to say no,” she said.

Ms. Campbell has more than 20 years experience in the pharmaceutical industry, including almost ten years with AstraZeneca PLC. She has also held a number of senior leadership roles within the company’s global marketing organization.

Prior to joining AstraZeneca, Ms. Campbell was a senior vice president and member of the business operating team with DuPont Pharma in the United States, where she also held various senior leadership roles within the sales and marketing departments.

In addition to her Bachelor of Applied Science in chemical engineering from the University of Toronto, Campbell has a Master of Business Administration from St. Joseph’s University in Philadelphia.

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