Women in Pharma Leadership
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Senior Leaders Advise We Must Think More Human to Retain Top Female Talent in Pharma.

The Women in Leadership Forum is a networking and knowledge-sharing event for pharma executives to share experiences and strategies for bringing diversity and equal opportunities to the industry.

On the second day of CPhI Worldwide, female leaders met to discuss talent acquisition and retention at a networking event produced in partnership with DuPont.

The theme of the event was the need for both companies and individuals to start thinking and acting on a more 'human level' to help attract and retain female talent.

Cphi Women LeadersDenise Johnston, from Nemera welcomed pharma attendees by highlighting the continual need for space where women can connect and re-energise to push for more women to thrive both economically and professionally. Denise was joined by the following women to discuss how to attract and retain top female talent:

Moderated by:

  • Zarmina Penner, Business Coach
  • Helena Demuynck, Authentic Leadership Coach

Following Denise’s remarks that recruitment is the starting point for a diverse and inclusive team, keynote speaker Angela Strzelecki spoke of how DuPont’s dramatic overhaul of the way they advertised and interviewed for roles came after an analysis of their recruitment processes.

"Give your female colleagues some slack, cut the competitiveness and start thinking on a more human level, you can succeed together."

Recognising that women typically only apply for a role if they have 100 per cent of the required skills, a conscious effort was made to pinpoint what the real must-haves were for each role. They identified that the previous post holder’s skills and attributes usually formed the base of the new role description. This had to change, after all, how can you create a diverse workforce if you are only ever emulating the current team?

What comes after recruitment?

Setting the tone for the rest of the morning, Angela spoke about the importance of support systems within organisations. Witnessing the change she herself received in her 26-year career, “When you start, your career is mapped, and support and guidance are thrust on you. However, this changes once you get to middle management, suddenly you are left to navigate your career and the system alone.” How do we nurture talent?During the panel session the discussions turned to the individual’s behaviour, questioning why even in larger organisations where the pool is diverse, and where women have high positions, there is still a lack of women in senior and C-Level positions. If it isn’t a pipeline problem, what is stopping women from moving further?

Identifying a lack of confidence as a key reason, Sara Henderson urged the room not to sit back and wait for opportunities. Recalling tales of where she fought that fear and asked for what she needed to create opportunities for herself. Thoughts echoed by Marga Viñes, who believes that the key to success is to ask for help and that women should never be afraid to express their wants and needs.

So, is there a glass ceiling or is it in our imagination?

Of course, there is, says Frances Zipp – the data proves there is. However, things have changed, and the number of women in senior positions is growing. While confidence does hold some women back, she believes that women are also guilty of holding each other back. “Give your female colleagues some slack, cut the competitiveness and start thinking on a more human level, you can succeed together.”

Mentorship is still an important way for women to support each other, and it was with the support of her mentor that Rina Chokshi felt confident enough to take the risk and opportunities needed to succeed as the first-ever female hire in her company. Facing many obstacles and challenges over the years, she alone had to create the path for future women to follow, and so encourages women to build a support network. "Sometimes we don’t recognise our own capabilities, but a mentor can push you to find out something new about yourself." women.jpg

The next Women in Leadership Forum takes place at CPhI North America on May 2nd 2019 in Chicago, Illinois and will look at how we move From Manager to Leader, through a series of leadership lessons from women and men in the industry. Sharing personal stories from their own leadership journeys, senior leaders will discuss: why you don’t need to act like a man to be taken seriously; the importance of authentic leadership; and offer effective communication strategies needed to succeed.

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