In honor of International Women’s Day, four trailblazing women at Modis Life Sciences share their inspirations, experiences throughout their careers, and a word of encouragement for young women who are about to embark on their own journeys of impact and success.
Whilst working in the pharmaceutical sector, I have never felt that being a woman served as a disadvantage to me in any way. Throughout my career as a consultant, I believe I have always been given fair opportunities to challenge myself, as well as develop myself and evolve as a person. I have been fortunate enough to work alongside strong women in leading positions, and they have inspired me to be the best version of myself.
The number of women occupying critical leadership roles in pharmaceutical companies has increased. To me, this a significant advance in the sector because a good gender balance benefits companies as it allows them to gain diverse insights and combine different approaches when tackling issues, which results in more effective outcomes.
If there is anything this pandemic has taught us, it is that women are an essential part of the solution. We have seen that, even though there is generally a lower representation of women in leading governmental positions, many countries with a woman at the head, such as New Zealand, have addressed the health and socio-economic issues of this pandemic in a rapid and efficient way.
From a child up until this very moment, there has been one main inspiration in my life: my mother. Not only has she constantly supported me and encouraged me to challenge myself, but she also taught me to believe in my abilities and not to fear taking risks. She showed me the importance of never giving up on myself. You will make mistakes along the way but learning from them is what is most important. This woman of never-ending strength made me the person I am today.
Reka’s word of advice:
“I would encourage young women, or in general anyone aspiring to grow in their career, to break through the self-imposed barriers, take risks and focus on your strengths. This will help you to become confident and to believe in your abilities. It is important to further develop yourself and learn from all experiences, even the setbacks, and to not allow them to put us down. And last but not least, create a healthy work-life balance.”
Project Manager Life Sciences
I have eight years of experience in the pharmaceutical bio-tech industry; five of these were in pre-clinical development in an SME and the remaining three were spent as a project manager in clinical development.
Looking at my professional journey so far, I can say it has not been an easy one. At the start of my career, I found it hard to convince others of my capabilities. No matter how hard I worked or how many opportunities and challenges I looked for, I felt as if I was blocked. Then, I made the decision to join Modis Life Sciences as a Project Manager, and this experience has helped me further develop the managerial skills I possess today.
To become successful in your workplace, it takes the right amount of courage and luck. I was fortunate enough that, after six years of hard work, I encountered someone who truly believed in my abilities. I was one of the Accelerando Project Managers (critical phase manager) assigned in the Covid-19 vaccine project of Johnson and Johnson, and this experience showed me the vital role I have played in the development of this most wanted vaccine. Not only am I proud of my team and our accomplishments, but I am also proud of myself to be a young woman who is making a difference in this fast paced and often challenging environment.
There are a lot of women in the pharmaceutical industry, however most higher management positions are held by men. In the past years, women have increasingly secured top level functions, and that serves as both motivation and inspiration for me. It shows that it is possible for women to be at the top!
Women, and men, in top positions inspire me to reach for the sky. When I look at their career path and compare it to where I am now, I feel motivated. Looking back to the start of my professional career, I can see that my interests have changed along the way. Throughout my career, not only did I keep an eye out for opportunities, but I also had discussions with people who had different profiles than me. By doing this, I was able to understand the steps I needed to take to grow to where I am today.
Valérie’s word of advice:
“Your interest might change along the way, but when you believe in your own capabilities and knowledge while keeping the motivation high, you will grow. Also remember, don’t let anyone else discourage you.”
Center of Excellence Business Lead
In my sector, I have had various experiences that could be connected to gender. These range from situations where there was no sense of gender inequality at all, to occasional stereotypical humor, to completely struggling for acceptance as a result of being a woman. Though there have been occasions where I felt I had to prove my worth or earn my place on the team, they were not all strictly related to gender.
Generally, I have witnessed an increase in women at managerial and board levels, and this is, also to some extent, being enforced legally in Belgium. However, imbalances can still be seen, with an example of this being when women and men are rewarded differently for doing the same job. I must say that I find the ongoing debates about (in)appropriate behavior in the workplace, such as the #metoo movement, to be beneficial as they contribute to painting a clearer picture of what is and is not acceptable at work, but it is also surprising to see how much gender plays a role in it. Within the life sciences sector, I am expecting to see a natural evolution over time towards a better balance of gender.
If we want to achieve an equal future, I believe we need to start teaching gender equality at young age and at a basic level. If we treat children equally, give them access to the same opportunities and actively show them that gender is not a differentiating factor but an enriching one, we could change our current society as we know it. Additionally, we can all make our own small contributions to the fight against gender inequality by simply adjusting our daily habits. For example, consciously giving someone an opportunity to demonstrate their skills and added value instead of passing judgement based on their gender could make a significant difference in the outcome of a situation.
Throughout my life, my mother has been one of my most important role models. As a single mother with little to no help, she combined a full-time job with raising two kids and running a household. She allowed us to make our mistakes, but then would always be there to help us find a solution. She taught me to go after the things I want and that it is ok to take risks on the way. I see a lot of what she taught me reflect in my own approach to the world today. Additionally, I must say that becoming a mother myself has given me a new kind of perspective on how I perceive certain therapies, devices and other solutions our clients and partners develop.
Caroline’s word of advice:
“Do not let other people tell you what you can or cannot do. If you believe in something, why not try it and learn from that. And ask lots of questions; you would be amazed how open others are to share their experiences and insights. And enjoy the ride!”
Director Workforce Solutions
We are definitely on the right track, because the proportion of women working in the HR service world is high. We also see quite a large number of women that are employed in the Life sciences sector, and the gender balance is steadier there than in HR. However, even though there seems to be an even proportion of gender in this sector, it is still predominantly men who work at management level. In all honesty, I do not consider this to be a big concern as I would rather have women reach such a level because that is what they want to do. A woman being in a managerial position should be a matter of her own free will and not because the company or organization for which she works needs to reach a certain quota of women in leadership functions. It is notable that in recent years there has been much more attention paid to diversity and at all levels. Gender equality has become a trending topic.
In a post-Covid world, we will undoubtedly have to work towards creating a healthier work-life balance. I am sure that, once we start working towards doing so, there will be many ways in which the women of today’s world can benefit from this.
Véronique’s word of advice:
“Instead of wanting to do everything perfectly and simultaneously, make choices and focus on them. It is impossible to keep all your balls in the air at the same time. Men also make choices and then go for them completely. Learn from them and then you will see yourself shine.”