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November 10, 2016
Women are leading the way in the era of healthcare disrupted
By: Anne O'Riordan

We are privileged to work in an industry that can have such an enormous effect on people’s lives. One of the best things about the industry is that it attracts the brightest talent to focus on some of the world’s most pressing medical issues. Women have always been pioneers in this space. That is why I am so thrilled to see efforts like those of FiercePharma and HBA, who are highlighting and celebrating the achievements of women in the industry on an annual basis.

Being surrounded by more than 2000 people at the HBA awards earlier in the year in New York City (with Basel and California connected as virtual satellites)—everyone there to recognize the success of the women on the stage—gave me a great appreciation for the remarkable difference women are making in life sciences and the role they play in blazing a trail for the women coming behind them.

From Emma Walmsley being appointed as GlaxoSmithKline Plc’s new chief executive, to Susan Shiff, Merck & Co’s Senior Vice President, to Nancy Valente, Vice President of Roche’s Genentech unit, one thing these women all have in common is their need to make a difference in the world.

For Valente, that drive comes from losing her father to pancreatic cancer. “I wanted to be able to make a difference for patients who have very serious illness, like his cancer,” she says. Walmsley agrees, saying, “It's a privilege to be leading a team working every day to help more people all over the world do more, feel better and live longer.” Shiff’s job is to make that difference clear by using real-world data to provide evidence that proves the value of medications to regulators and other stakeholders.

Another woman in the industry who is making headlines is Belén Garijo, CEO of Merck Healthcare. Dr. Garijo, worked as a practicing physician for six years before joining the pharmaceutical industry. Speaking in an interview for the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health “Voices in Leadership” series, Garijo noted the importance of embracing diversity throughout the organization, especially considering the global nature of business today. “If you surround yourself by clones of yourself, what is the point?” Garijo asked.

There’s a lot we can learn from the purposeful leadership of women in these influential positions, which is why I’m so thrilled to see a groundswell of recognition for women—and the role they play in the growth and development of our industry, and in improving patient outcomes.

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