Women Share Their Experience as Healthcare Industry Leaders
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Women Share Their Experience as Healthcare Industry Leaders

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Miriam Bello By Miriam Bello | Senior Journalist and Industry Analyst - Thu, 09/09/2021 - 18:50

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Gender equality is a priority for the healthcare sector because there are still few women in leadership positions. While the road ahead is still long, female leaders are taking conscious actions to help more women reach leadership positions.

“Studies show that men take up 94 percent of the CEO roles in the biopharmaceutical industry,” said Florencia Davel, Vice President and General Manager of Latin America at Bristol Myers Squibb and President of FIFARMA. “Eight years ago, when I took a management position in BMS the dominant presence of men at high-levels meetings was evident. While there are more women in leadership positions, there is still a long road ahead.”

“When we look outside our own journey, we can see how we are some of the few privileged women that have reached a leadership position with no bias imposed on our work,” said María Johnson, Vice President of Channels for Latin America at Boston Scientific. “This is when you understand you need women supporting women and people believing in you and your work, such as mentors and sponsors.”

Growing professionally, “every professional should have mentors, sponsors and personal board of directors,” said Johnson, “particularly women, who often network lees due to the gender roles imposed on them.” When women support women by becoming a mentor or sponsor, another woman takes that as an example, said Johnson.

To build these supportive environments, companies must set clear and tangible objectives. “In order to pave the way forward and reduce the gender gap, companies need to implement a clear statement and agenda. It has to be intentional,” said Luly de Samper, International Vice President of Medical Devices in Latin America at Johnson & Johnson. “Equality at corporations is not only right; it is also smart business.” de Samper explained that a workforce that reflects the people they target is most likely to understand what that segment of the population needs and wants. “At Johnson & Johnson, 43 percent of our 130,000 employees are women. Additionally, 46 percent of the management positions and above are taken by women.”

To achieve gender equality, every policy, training, employees research group, talent acquisition process, sponsorship program and flexible work arrangements need to be planned. Offering maternal and paternal leave also has to be a priority. Johnson & Johnson has implemented trainings to promote the conscious inclusion, eliminate unconscious bias and foster inclusivity, said de Samper. The company also created mentoring and networking forums to intentionally bring men to the conversation. “The effort is from women to women but bringing men into the conversation is fundamental to stop expanding the gender gap,” said de Samper.

“I am sure that me and my fellow female leaders were the first and the only women in many rooms but what matters is that we are making sure we are not the last. We share a sense of responsibility to end gender bias,” said Mariana Tolovi, Managing Director of Latin America at Edwards Lifesciences. Eliminating gender bias begins with education, explained Tolovi, because people need to understand what they are and how to actively identify them. Engage, communicate and educate are the pillars for gender equality at Edwards Lifesciences. “Based on a conscious study we are able to see what is behind gender inequality to then implement a business approach to close the gap.”

Incorporating men in the conversation is the secret for gender equality, also explained Tolovi. “Men need to understand their role on achieving gender equality.” However, gender equality can only be achieved through actions that start at the top. “Leaders that walk the talk. This is general management matter,” said Johnson. Massiel Nunez, Director Americas at FrontierView, also explained that cultures cannot change unless leadership is held accountable for gender equality.

“Our place as leaders is to lead conversations and environments,” said Sandra Cifuentes, Latam Area Lead of Astellas. There are few leaders that take care of the mental and physical health of their employees but “if we are to lead by example, we need to connect with people and be empathic and listen to our female employees.” Astellas has created emotion programs and psychological safe spaces where employees can connect and share their fears, achievements and how they deal their personal and professional lives. “We also have programs like Women in action and Astellas Girls to motivate young girls to explore areas like STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics), where we see few female participation since an early stage.”

As more women become leaders, they can encourage other women to follow their footsteps. “I see many women drop out of their careers when they reach management roles because of their personal lives. I say to them ‘It can be done!’,” said de Samper. “But it requires passion for what you do, a strong support system and embracing the challenges that help you grow.”

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