Women taking on more roles in pharma manufacturing, but still work to do – Endpoints News


More and more women are dri­ving in­no­va­tion and tak­ing lead­er­ship roles in biotech – as ev­i­denced to­day in the re­lease of End­points News’ list of the top 20 women in the R&D world – but those gains are be­gin­ning to ex­tend across phar­ma sec­tors.

In phar­ma man­u­fac­tur­ing in the US to­day, around 46% of all roles are oc­cu­pied by women, ac­cord­ing to the US Bu­reau of La­bor Sta­tis­tics for 2021. And ac­cord­ing to a Bloomberg re­port, women’s roles across man­u­fac­tur­ing roles had a mas­sive boost af­ter the start of the pan­dem­ic.

As the roles of women con­tin­ue to grow in phar­ma man­u­fac­tur­ing, End­points talked with Piper Trel­stad, the head of chem­istry, man­u­fac­tur­ing and con­trols (CMC) at the Bill & Melin­da Gates Med­ical Re­search In­sti­tute (Gates MRI), to get a sense of how and why women’s roles are grow­ing and chang­ing – and what lies ahead.

This in­ter­view has been edit­ed for clar­i­ty.

End­points: What has been lead­ing to a rise in women oc­cu­py­ing roles in the phar­ma man­u­fac­tur­ing in­dus­try?

Piper Trel­stad: I think that there’s been a con­cert­ed ef­fort to ad­dress it. I think there’s in­ter­est in it they are good jobs, in­ter­est­ing jobs. I think there’s been a con­cert­ed ef­fort is there’s been sort of a con­scious­ness that we’re kind of see­ing a ceil­ing and so that there are pro­grams and ef­forts to en­sure that women lead­ers are get­ting the men­tor­ship that is awk­ward, so crit­i­cal, and see­ing women rise. I think there’s a lit­tle bit of a snow­balling ef­fect too, as you have more peo­ple in lead­er­ship po­si­tions who are role mod­els for those who are kind of com­ing up through the ranks. So, I think there’s a com­bi­na­tion of a num­ber of fac­tors that are con­tribut­ing to that, and again, we’re not at par­i­ty quite yet but we at least seem to be head­ed in the right di­rec­tion.

End­points: What sort of roles are women oc­cu­py­ing in the man­u­fac­tur­ing field?

Trel­stad: I think it’s a mix­ture. I mean, I do think that you see women in all parts of the or­ga­ni­za­tion, at least in my ex­pe­ri­ence from man­u­fac­tur­ing, through­out and again, kind of in­creas­ing­ly and in those C-suite roles. His­tor­i­cal­ly you’ve seen a lot of women in roles, like qual­i­ty roles, and reg­u­la­to­ry, some of those that are in­cred­i­bly im­por­tant sup­port roles, but I think you’re start­ing to see more even in the more tra­di­tion­al­ly male-dom­i­nat­ed man­u­fac­tur­ing and tech­ni­cal roles as well.

End­points: What are some fac­tors that are still hold­ing back women from join­ing the phar­ma man­u­fac­tur­ing roles and what is be­ing done to ad­dress them?

Trel­stad: I think there’s al­so in my ex­pe­ri­ence, just you know, when women de­cide to have fam­i­lies that that’s of­ten a key de­ci­sion point, like do they feel like they can bal­ance that work, which is of­ten de­mand­ing and so hav­ing, good child­care op­tions are so crit­i­cal­ly im­por­tant. So, I think there’s cer­tain­ly an op­por­tu­ni­ty I think, as a so­ci­ety to do bet­ter, you do see that some com­pa­nies are pro­vid­ing, pro­vid­ing child­care. So, for me, I’ve seen new su­per tal­ent­ed women, and then they start their fam­i­lies, and then they ei­ther kind of step back al­to­geth­er or come back and roles that are a lit­tle bit maybe less as­pi­ra­tional than what they might have thought ear­li­er in their ca­reers.

End­points: What should man­u­fac­tur­ers be do­ing to maybe start­ed at­tract­ing a wider fe­male work­force?

Trel­stad: Large­ly they’re do­ing a pret­ty good job in terms of bring­ing women in out of school, younger women. I think you’ll see that there’s rea­son­able par­i­ty in terms of the num­bers, kind of in the low­er lev­els of the or­ga­ni­za­tions and I think the da­ta sup­ports that. I think what the ques­tion is how you keep them in and keep mak­ing sure that they’re be­ing pro­mot­ed on the same at the same kind of rate in which men are and I think that you have to be re­al­ly sort of con­scious that you’re mak­ing sure that you’re de­vel­op­ing women that you’re, again, cre­at­ing those men­tor­ing roles in or­der to make sure that you’re bring­ing them along. Mak­ing sure that you’re giv­ing every­body the op­por­tu­ni­ties, it’s prob­a­bly not just sort of a women/men thing, which is sort of ever you know, every­one if you’re try­ing to get the di­ver­si­ty across the across the board, and this is some­thing that at the Gates Med­ical Re­search In­sti­tute we have very con­scious and have a strong kind of DEI ef­fort. So we’re think­ing about those both as part of that hir­ing process but al­so as we grow and think­ing about what op­por­tu­ni­ties we’re giv­ing peo­ple and how we’re train­ing our folks.

End­points: Where do you see the fu­ture of fe­male par­tic­i­pa­tion in this in­dus­try go­ing, will it in­crease or stay at this lev­el?

Trel­stad: My hope is it’ll keep in­creas­ing and get to par­i­ty I don’t think we’re done yet. I think we’ll con­tin­ue to see that rise. And I think that the rea­son for that is I think it’s been pret­ty clear that when you have good di­ver­si­ty in an or­ga­ni­za­tion, you get bet­ter think­ing. And so, I think that’s go­ing to con­tin­ue to dri­ve that just from a busi­ness per­spec­tive I think it makes it makes sense.

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