Three women share their stories of working in pharma

In a special series of exclusive PharmaTalent interviews we shine a light on the women leading, inspiring and blazing a trail within industry.

Pf’s Political Correspondent, Claudia Rubin, wrote recently about how pharma has a long way to go in offering equal career opportunities to women, citing the fact that among the top 20 pharmaceutical companies, as ranked by sales in 2016, senior female executives represented just 17% of the management team. ‘Pharma knows it must find a way to encourage more women to rise through its ranks’, Claudia wrote.

According to the Pf People 2017 Perception, Motivation and Satisfaction Survey Report, the pharma industry is represented by more females than males, at 58% to 42%. Women in pharma also appear to have greater longevity, with the survey finding that more than 15% of female respondents have been working in the pharmaceutical industry between 11 and 20 years.

Women’s roles are evolving, and pharma is one industry where they can rise through the ranks, as the success stories of the inspirational women featured in our new series show.

Here, three women from Roche share their stories of working in pharma.

Jasbinder Bajwa

Biosample Operations Specialist

I lead and execute the biological sampling strategy within our clinical trial studies for a number of molecules we are conducting research in. I project manage multiple projects across a variety of therapeutic areas including Cancer Immunotherapy, Antibiotics and Rare Diseases, and work with cross-functional teams in a matrix organisation.

After graduating with my degree in Pharmaceutical & Chemical Sciences I secured my first position at MSD as a Paper CRF Data Entry Associate. After MSD I joined AstraZeneca, then moved to a role where I was managing the portfolio of clinical trial studies with the NIHR Medicines for Children’s Research Network East based in Nottingham’s QMC Hospital.

We all have to work hard to rise through the ranks but as a woman you have more to prove to be taken as seriously as men. Being the eldest of four girls in an Indian Sikh family came with a ‘glass ceiling’ of its own whereby education, marriage, motherhood and a job were the success factors. Having a career and rising up the ranks has only recently been acknowledged and the personal ‘glass ceiling’ is lifting. I have pushed through personal boundaries to make this acceptable.

However, during my journey at Roche I have been able to rise and have been supported by some genuinely passionate and supportive female managers. In fact, in my team, function, department, organisation, at every rank sits a woman. How is that for aspiring and squashing the ‘glass ceiling’?

Jennifer Cozzone

Integrated Franchise Leader – Immunology Franchise

I’m accountable for our Immunology portfolio; ensuring we have the right strategy, the right resources and that we deliver on our short and long term commitments such as sales but also investment in supporting the Immunology community of patients and clinicians who might interact with our medicines.

After getting my MSc in Management I specialised in healthcare and then joined Genentech, which was later acquired by Roche, in a market access strategy role. Nine years later I’m still with the company, albeit in a different affiliate and a very different role!

In theory there isn’t a glass ceiling for women in pharma; that hasn’t been my personal experience. However, even in a progressive company like Roche, where in the UK 56% of those in managerial positions are women, we are still on a journey in terms of levelling the playing field.

To attract more women in any type of role, companies need to start by considering more women in their hiring process. As far as retaining, it’s no secret that many women who find themselves in or aspiring to senior leadership positions are doing so at the same time their family demands are highest – be it childcare or eldercare for example.

Beyond evolving hiring practices to more actively combat bias, making it easier for any parent (regardless of gender) to flex their day around work and family is essential to both attracting and retaining females at that point in their lives. Flexible working hours is the obvious one, but also childcare on-site, tele-working in a global organisation, and so on. Our US affiliate has on-site childcare available for a fee and it is a major recruitment and retention tool.

Brigitte Nolet

Integrated Franchise Leader – Rare Disease Franchise

I have the responsibility for leading our business for molecules within the rare diseases franchise. It is my role to ensure we set the strategy for the franchise and its molecules; ensure resourcing; ensure cross functional excellence in our execution; and support staff in their career journeys.

My journey in pharma began in Canada within the Canadian Trade Association, where I joined 16 years ago as a Director of Federal Government Affairs. It was in that role that I met the General Manager of the Canadian Roche offices who gave me the opportunity to join Roche, and I have not looked back since.

Women have to work differently to rise through the pharma ranks. Women have to ensure their voices are heard and that their efforts are both recognised and rewarded. Efforts must be made to communicate achievements and not shy away from expressing ultimate career objectives. For those women who want or have families, like me, this also involves finding a working style that meets your professional needs but also your family’s needs.

I do believe that in the 16 years that I have been in the industry, the working environment for women has improved. But there is no doubt, based on numbers, that there is still room for improvement to see women in senior leadership roles.

I mentor many women in the industry and my biggest contribution to our conversations is ensuring that we all have clear career paths developed and that we are pushing ourselves to consider our potential for roles – not only our accomplishments to complete a role.

At a recent women’s professional group event, our global CEO reminded us, as women, of the importance of being clear with our career path and communicating our intentions to our line managers. Upon reflection, there were too many times in my career where I assumed that my next steps and interests would be understood and that my achievements were seen. But with this advice, I am now much more proactive and direct in discussions with my line manager about my expectations for my next role; the experience I want to gain; and speaking to timeframes in a realistic manner. While it took me way outside of my comfort zone at first – to be this transparent – it has been met with openness and appreciation, leading to extremely productive discussions about the future!