Women & Health: Lessons in Leadership

Contributed by:

Taren Grom, Editor

NOTE: The content below contains the first few paragraphs of the printed article and the titles of the sidebars and boxes, if applicable.

Currently, executive women hold only about 4.6% of CEO positions in S&P 500 companies. Research from McKinsey & Company reports that at the first critical step up to manager, women are 18% less likely to be promoted than their male peers. This gender disparity has a dramatic effect on the representation of women: if entry-level women were promoted at the same rate as their male peers, the number of women at the senior VP and C-suite levels would more than double. Additionally, McKinsey notes that women are less likely to receive advice from managers and senior leaders on how to advance, and employees who do are more likely to say they’ve been promoted in the last two years.
Similarly, women are less likely to interact regularly with senior leaders, yet employees who do are more likely to aspire to be top executives. Finally, in its Women in the Workplace 2017 study, McKinsey notes women are less likely than men to aspire to be a top executive, and those who do are significantly less likely than men to think they’ll become one.

To provide some much-need inspiration, we looked to our PharmaVOICE community of executive women to find out how they navigated to the top of their fields.

Hitting the Gas Pedal

There are a number of ways to accelerate one’s career — build your network, toot your horn, cultivate sponsors, be strategic, negotiate your worth, step outside your comfort zone, etc. We asked our community of women executives to share their career accelerating experiences.

Christi Shaw
Senior VP & President, Lilly Bio Medicines, Eli Lilly and Company
I owned my career myself. I set my sights on what I wanted to achieve in my career life and didn’t let anyone, sustainably, make me feel like I couldn’t do it. Maybe I doubted myself sometimes, but my support system always helped me see I could do it. I actioned my own development plan. I consistently ask for feedback, coaching, and 360s; I evaluate learnings on why things went well, why things didn’t go well; I read a lot about leaders, leadership, winning hearts and minds, legacy leadership, making a real impact, etc. I don’t make my career about a company. I make it about my personal mission to help as many patients as I can in my lifetime. I can do that by learning more, taking on many lateral roles, cross functional, cross sector, and then taking on more responsibility, including both commercial and scientific/medical accountabilities. I pay it forward and backward, up and down. I spend too many hours on my mission to help patients not to care about the people I work with. I am still connected to most of the members of any team I have led. I take the time to help others achieve their dreams. I find I get 10 time back what I put in. I learn new things, I am reverse mentored, and I get great joy from helping others.

Kathy Giusti
Founder, Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation; Co-Chair, HBS Kraft Precision Medicine Accelerator
Be laser-focused. Set your goals and a roadmap to reach them. Ignore the distractions and the detractors.

Mary Lynne Hedley Ph.D.
President and Chief Operating Officer, TESARO
I took a big uncomfortable leap without a good sense of how things would turn out. My first company was founded by myself and two other post-docs and we didn’t know much about starting a business, certainly not a biotech company. But, we believed in ourselves, in what we were doing, and we had a passion to convert an interesting scientific idea into a drug to help patients. Importantly, we were smart enough to know that we needed help to be successful and we were not afraid to seek out that assistance and figure it out. Embracing the unknown is scary, but if goals are aligned with passion and commitment, taking that leap can be the best accelerator.

Holly May
U.S., VP Marketing & Sales, Sobi Pharmaceuticals
I decided early in my career that gaining experience and exposure was critical. I made very purposeful decisions to seek out and take on lateral or lattice roles as opposed to only focusing on the promotion. Careers are long and working in cross-functional roles for a few years is the best possible development. They provide a tremendous foundation of practical skill-building.

Eva JAck
Chief Business Officer, Mersana Therapeutics
Learn new skills is critical. If I thought a job was interesting or intriguing, even if I didn’t have the appropriate skill set going into the job, I would take the job. Openness to learning new skills can lead to new opportunities that might not be the obvious next step in your career.

Deborah Dunsire, M.D.
CEO, XTuit Pharmaceuticals
My advice: take an international position. Working in different countries and cultures challenges any preconceived notions of how business should be done and teaches new approaches and an openness to different viewpoints. It is an invaluable growth experience.

Michelle Keefe
President, Commercial Solutions, Syneos Health
The most significant thing I did to accelerate my career was to take on a general management position with full P&L responsibility. This type of role challenges your thinking in a variety of ways and forces you to be hyper-focused on what will drive future growth. All decisions — from deciding how to manage profitability to building a team with the right mix of talent and diversity of experiences — tie back to how you can drive growth. These experiences absolutely accelerated my capabilities and leadership skills and made me more valuable to my employer and my clients.

Jennifer Matthews
President and Managing Partner, The Bloc
Early on in my career, I said yes to a position with broader responsibilities that was not entirely aligned with the path I had intended to pursue. It stretched me and taught me skills I wouldn’t have had a chance to develop for several more years if I had stayed on the conventional course. Lesson learned: get uncomfortable, challenge yourself and good things can happen.

Chitre Lele, Ph.D.
Chief Scientific Officer, Sciformix
My decision to take a risk and look for opportunities in an emerging geography was the most significant thing I did. By seeing the potential of an untapped market such as India and taking action to build it, I was given the platform to be a trailblazer and assume leadership early in my career.

Reenie McCarthy
President and CEO, Stealth BioTherapeutics
The most significant thing I did to accelerate my career was to step outside of my comfort zone. I did this first when I left a more formulaic career path in corporate law to join Morningside Ventures. Morningside expanded my horizons and pushed me to learn — about cutting-edge science and leadership in companies and on corporate boards — and to adapt quickly to new challenges. I stepped outside my comfort zone again when I joined Stealth BioTherapeutics to lead a team of experienced biotech professionals. I learned a tremendous amount in both roles, which I attribute to my mentor, in the first instance, and my team, in the second, but not without some moments of sheer terror each time.

Carolyn Morgan
President, Precisioneffect
I don’t know that I “did” this but I have a ton of perseverance. I take setbacks in stride and learn the lesson to ensure I can be better tomorrow. I assume we will come out on top and that eternal mix of perseverance and optimism has led our teams through losses.

Julie Ross
President, Advanced Clinical
As I look back, the most significant thing I did to accelerate my career was to take a lateral position in an area where I had little experience. Literally, I had spent my days in operational roles, including operations management, and was fortunate enough to be asked to take on an individual sales role. While at first I thought it to be the craziest idea ever, a mentor helped me recognize the value in doing so and reminded me that I could always go back to operations. Reflecting back, it opened my world and my view had new colors and perspectives that proved immensely valuable to accelerating my career. Seeing the business world from multiple perspectives is ultimately priceless.

Terri Pascarelli
CEO, AIT Bioscience
If I’ve done one thing that accelerated my career, it was being intentional about seeking opportunities to learn and lead outside of my day job — from early in my career through today. These other roles allowed me to spend time with more experienced leaders, to build my network, and to work on skills that complemented or sped up what I was exposed to at work. I’ve served with organizations such as the American Heart Association, the United Way, the U.S. Jaycees, and academic organizations’ external advisory boards. My long-standing professional volunteer experience has been with the Healthcare Businesswomen’s Association (HBA), where I served as chair, and which I’ve proudly been associated with for more that 15 years.

Ahnal Purohit, Ph.D.
Owner, Purohit Navigation
Probably the most significant career decision I made was leaving a comfortable position at a large market research firm and venturing out on my own in the early 1980s. I think most people reach a point, somewhere in their career, where they pivot; sometimes it’s taking a new or more senior position within the organization that they’re at. Sometimes it’s leaving what they know and starting anew. I felt I was able to hit my professional stride once I had the freedom to call my own shots.

Nicolette Sherman
Global Head of Leadership Development, Sanofi
Taking on a global assignment opened up the world for me. Understanding the distinctions and dynamism in our markets and our diverse patient needs provides the platform and urgency around adapting products and healthcare solutions and transforming the way we work to be relevant in the future. Working with global teams continues to broaden my thinking and inspires me with opportunities for ongoing learning and development.

Kamni Vijay
VP and General Manager, Genomics Division, Agilent Technologies
Working with a professional coach, I sharpened my instincts as a leader early in my career and then later as my leadership style evolved. We all have our own blind spots, but it can be easy to ignore them, and the ways in which they contribute, or stand in the way of our problem-solving and progress. Knowing how to navigate around these blind spots has truly accelerated my results-orientation and enabled me to be very thoughtful about how to build and fuel multi-dimensional, world-class teams.

Natalie McDonald
President, Create NYC
While it took time to appreciate it, the most important thing I did to accelerate my career was to not get ahead of myself or my competencies. My best managers took the time and care to ensure I was ready for what came next, which meant a focus on learning and then demonstrating before finally mastering the skills to excel at each step in my career.

Lorna Weir
Founder, Elevate Healthcare
I have a consistent drive to expand my area of expertise and experience. From Wall Street, to law, to consumer marketing and healthcare, I have been driven by an innate interest and need to delve deeper into my discipline as well as develop a greater understanding and appreciation for other disciplines that are critical to the overall success. Understanding the broader context and perspective has allowed me to excel beyond my core competency.

Alexandra von Plato
CEO, Publicis Health
It may sound simple, but I raised my hand and I asked. I asked for the time of senior executives. I asked for opportunities. And I asked for promotions. I did it politely and often. As easy as it sounds, it’s not. If you don’t ask, you don’t get. Accelerating your career means making the case for yourself, having the courage of your convictions. First, you have to have conviction, which gives you courage. Second, you have to ask.

Silvia Perez
President and General Manager, 3M Drug Delivery Systems Division
There are three words that best describe my leadership style: thrill, accountability, and purpose. I define thrill as having the courage to take risks, the willingness to embrace change, and the thirst for being challenged. I am at my best when I’m a little uncomfortable and facing big challenges and expectations. Accountability is not only about ownership and hard work on my part. It’s about being true to my values. As for my leadership style, I expect people in my organization, at every level, to be held accountable for the results they commit to. In holding people accountable, I make sure I’m being clear about my expectations, being supportive, and being direct. I don’t define purpose in terms of power, money, or glory. Rather, I define it in terms of authenticity, original thought, and the ability to make a unique contribution that in some way can change the world. In the healthcare field, that becomes very possible and is a big reason why I’ve been with 3M for my entire career. I have had very little concern for the boundaries of my job description. I don’t mean that in a disrespectful way. Rather, I’ve always looked for ways to contribute above and beyond the definition of my job. That strategy has given me opportunities to develop myself in areas that were not natural to my job description, thus feeding my thirst for learning and expanding my depth of knowledge and experience.

Lessons and Pitfalls

Along the way to the top there are many lessons to be learned and pitfalls to avoid: do keep track of career accomplishments; do look for opportunities for lateral moves; don’t let your network flail even while you are employed; don’t wait for a raise or promotion; and don’t count on your company to manage your career — you are in charge. Our executives talk about what they have learned to do and what not to do.

Erin Byrne
CEO, ghg | greyhealth group
Women should avoid falling into the trap of being apologetic and deferring to men because of their gender. Both women and men deserve an equal voice and equal opportunity. Women need to have the confidence in themselves to contribute in the workplace and collaborate as equal partners with their male colleagues.

Darlene Dobry
Managing Partner, Ogilvy CommonHealth Worldwide, a WPP Health & Wellness company
Be present, be authentic, and be passionate. Don’t be so focused on what’s next that you miss the opportunity to be the best you can be in your current role or stage of your life. It’s important to stay true to who you are and what fulfills and motivates you. Pursue everything you do with passion. And never forget to help lift other women along the way. Don’t feel as you have to step on others to get ahead.

Tracy Doyle
President, Phoenix Group
Don’t beat yourself up when you don’t live up to your own expectations. Reflect and learn from those times when you stumble and fall over. One pitfall to avoid: don’t be the smartest person in the room. The team will feel that you don’t need them and you will not grow as a leader. Delegating and elevating is the only way to grow. Being the smartest person in the room holds you back because people are afraid to empower themselves and make decisions.

Michelle Keefe
President, Commercial Solutions,
Syneos Health
The leadership lesson I would impart is to drive performance for your organization. Whether it is performance in a functional area or overall performance of your team, it is hard to ignore a consistent track record of high performance. But don’t stop there. Leverage this hard work. Make a plan to share your results with leaders in your organization. Use your demonstrated track record of delivering as a springboard to ask for more responsibility and identify internal champions to help campaign for you.

Jennifer Matthews
President and Managing Partner, The Bloc
We expect ourselves — and each other — to be perfect, often regardless of gender. Let’s cut ourselves a collective break. It is absolutely possible to have it all, just not at the same time or moment. Make the right choices for yourself based upon your career and personal priorities.

Holly May
U.S., VP Marketing & Sales, Sobi Pharmaceuticals
Authenticity is extremely important. Have confidence in who you are and what you can bring to the table. You need to let go of being the person you think others want you to be. This can be hard for women. I have suffered from listening to that voice in my head that says don’t speak up, or just say what you think everyone wants to hear. Over my career I have learned that diversity of thought and opinion is often the thing that can cause leap-frog changes. Personal impact comes from the place where you embrace who you are and the value you bring to the organization. You should feel empowered to depart from the status quo.

Natalie McDonald
President, Create NYC
It is important to balance work and personal pursuits. My most successful professional years were those that I also accomplished exciting milestones outside of work. Passion shouldn’t be limited to just one part of life. For example, my “give it all you got” attitude has inspired adventures throughout the world together with my husband and children with a goal of experiencing different cultures.

Carolyn Morgan
President, Precisioneffect
When in a tough situation, I have learned to fully explore the worst-case scenario, accept it, and solve for it. Only once you have truly looked at what might happen can you then lead from a place of strength and confidence, which empowers you and your team to behave differently. We have all fallen victim to “hoping” for a different outcome.

Melanie Nallicheri
Chief Business Officer & Head Biopharma, Foundation Medicine
Choose wisely who you work for. This sounds obvious, but I think most women often make their choice based on the immediate role at hand. While I think the role is important, who you work for is more so. Repeatedly, I’ve been able to identify bosses who are “gender blind” and who valued my contributions above all else. Each of them has been a true advocate — they have looked out for me and identified the next role I should step into, often long before I had thought about it. So in essence, by choosing your boss, mentor, sponsor, you are not just picking a role, you are choosing a career.

Terri Pascarelli
CEO, AIT Bioscience
While it’s a generalization, women who are trying to move ahead in their career may feel they have to carefully mind the “tone” of their leadership style, and demonstrate how “tough” they are in order not to be slotted as too soft of a leader. The caution I’ll share in that regard is to remember that bringing your best self and your best leadership is to be authentic. Lead with your strengths. Leverage the talents that give you energy rather than trying to manipulate yourself to be someone you’re not, which drains your energy and doesn’t usually bring you the leadership credibility you seek.

Ahnal Purohit, Ph.D.
Owner, Purohit Navigation
As recent as 30 years ago, female executives running their own companies were almost unheard of. I’m so happy with the progress that we’ve made since then — and continue to make. Early in my career, I can remember apologizing to employees when I would ask them to redo work that they had done, because I thought it wasn’t fully developed. Very rarely did I ever hear a male colleague apologize to his employees when he would ask the same. I think we’ve reached a parity today between the genders, where no one apologizes for demanding the best — no one ever should.

Lynn O’Connor Vos
CEO, Muscular Dystrophy Association
If I could impart one leadership lesson to other women who are climbing the corporate ladder, it would be: Go for it. Woman all too frequently hold themselves back. Be confident in your abilities, stay engaged with leaders in your field, and challenge yourself to always be on top of your game.

Sharon Callahan
CEO, TBWA\WorldHealth; Chief Client Officer, Omnicom Health Group
Be yourself, and never stop trying to be the best version of yourself. Don’t believe that hard work alone will get you the recognition that you deserve; it won’t — you’ll become indispensable and invisible.

Gisela Schwab, M.D.
Chief Medical Officer, Exelixis
What propelled me forward in my career was stretching myself outside my comfort zone and embracing new challenges. This can result in very impactful experiences. For example, early on in my career when working at Amgen in Germany, I was asked to step in as the medical lead for the French subsidiary for several months. I decided to take on the challenge of dusting off my French and commuting to another country every week to lead the French medical department. It definitely forced me to step outside of my comfort zone, and took time away from my family and friends for a bit. But taking this opportunity proved to be a great experience and important to progressing my career. In my opinion the biggest pitfall to avoid is being intimidated by a louder voice that may cause you to avoid standing your ground. You have to be tenacious. If you are not heard the first time, say it once more — persevere if you feel you have a point to make.

Nicolette Sherman
Global Head of Leadership Development, Sanofi
Don’t go it alone. Create a support network — your own personal board of directors. This can be a powerful and rewarding lever. Over the course of my career, I have been blessed with many great mentors, managers, and friends who have been gracious in sharing their learnings and insights. They have challenged my thinking, pushed me to dream bigger, opened doors for me, and provided wonderful guidance along the way. People want to be part of your success story — let them. And don’t forget to pay it forward with others looking for your support.

Kamni Vijay
VP and General Manager, Genomics Division, Agilent Technologies
Get to know your authentic self and enlist your network to provide you with ongoing feedback: peers, mentors, and even friends who see you in nonprofessional settings. Your network can provide you with different, but equally valuable, feedback that can help you to fine tune your greatest strengths, leading you to develop a leadership persona built on an authentic set of traits that sets you apart. The one pitfall women should avoid is under valuing the network effect and restricting the amount of time and energy devoted toward cultivating a healthy and lasting network. Strong leaders surround themselves with, and continually harness the power of, a robust network of individuals who they rely upon, and in turn provide support to.

Alexandra von Plato
CEO, Publicis Health
It’s a hard-learned lesson that only becomes clear in retrospect, but leadership requires taking the risk of stepping up and standing out. Don’t wait for someone to discover you and discover your many gifts. A pitfall that women can sometimes fall into is wanting and waiting to be discovered. We’re not conditioned to be in the front of the classroom — or the boardroom — and raise our hands for attention. It’s considered unfeminine and too aggressive. We can get stuck in the mindset of waiting, thinking we’re not qualified enough and we often don’t make the case for why we are qualified. The lesson is to make the case for what good looks like, then casting yourself in that role.

M. Clareece West
VP and General Manager, Cardinal Health Regulatory Sciences
Always be true to yourself and your values — and remember your reputation is built upon the choices you make and the way you treat people around you. Many years ago I was asked by a supervisor to do something unethical; I left the company rather than compromise my principles. While quitting my job was scary at the time, in the long term it helped me to go much farther in my career.

Breaking the Mold

It takes courage to break new ground, carve out a place at the table, and develop a leadership voice. Executives discuss their aha moments and how they broke the mold.

Sharon Callahan
CEO, TBWA\WorldHealth; Chief Client Officer, Omnicom Health Group
I took a risk and asked for the job that I wanted, even though it didn’t exist. I’ve always been myself and asked for what I wanted. Even when it was uncomfortable.

Chitra Lele, Ph.D.
Chief Scientific Officer, Sciformix
My credentials, experience, and performance helped me with early success in my career, and continued performance is what enabled me to build on it. Innovation in both strategy and process, and excellence in execution based on a deep understanding of the environmental conditions also helped me to succeed. I didn’t do anything different or special just because I am a woman. Throughout my career, I have often been the only woman in a boardroom, but my drive and conviction that I was doing the right things, and in the best possible manner, made me believe that gender wouldn’t matter. Gradually others also realized and accepted this.

Reenie McCarthy
President and CEO, Stealth BioTherapeutics
I focused on the work at work, made the hard decisions to prioritize family over work when it was important to do so, and learned to delegate. Someone once told me when I decided to forego an important meeting to be with my elderly dad during a major surgery, that if I want people to trust in my judgment, they need to be able respect the decisions I make across all aspects of my life in terms of what I prioritize and when. It was brilliant advice. I was also very lucky that my mentors did, in fact, respect the decisions I made along the way, and that my family has always been incredibly supportive.

Lynn O’Connor Vos
CEO, Muscular Dystrophy Association
I was the first woman to run a global health agency. To be honest, I did not see the barriers — instead I saw right through them. I asked for the opportunity to run the agency — after the founders retired — and I got it. So, my advice to young women: Don’t be afraid to ask, and always be willing to advocate for yourself.

Silvia Perez
President and General Manager, 3M Drug Delivery Systems Division
I never saw the mold. I reject the mold. I operate as if a mold doesn’t exist. Some may think that is naive, but I believe it is all about your attitude and how you present yourself. When I walk into a boardroom, I don’t think of myself as a woman. That part of me is irrelevant to the job at hand. Instead, I have confidence that I am a valuable member of the team with knowledge and experience that is integral to the success of the company.

M. Clareece West
VP and General Manager, Cardinal Health Regulatory Sciences
For me, one of the keys to career success has been a willingness to go outside of my comfort zone and challenge the status quo. I don’t shy away from conflict; I believe that respectful debate is how we get to better ideas and solutions. I encourage young people in my organization to put forth innovative ideas and look for new ways to add value to their businesses — that’s how you distinguish yourself.

Rachel Stahler
Chief Information Officer, Syneos
I didn’t grow up envisioning a career in technology. In fact, a chance conversation with my older brother, who is now a CTO/CIO, during my undergraduate studies as an economics major influenced me to take my first coding class. That class unlocked creativity I never knew I had and so began my unexpected path toward a career in technology. In my mid-20s I questioned whether technology was really the right fit for me and I accepted a job in a strategy role. There I saw multiple thoughtful strategies I’d developed struggle to get off the ground due to a lack of infrastructure. It was frustrating and demotivating. But it taught me a valuable lesson — when strategy and technology come together, the combination is incredibly powerful. This experience solidified my career direction and propelled my journey to becoming a CIO.

Wendy White
Principal Consultant, Wendy White Consulting
I’ve learned that with purpose, you can be bold. If you truly believe in what you are doing you spend less time worrying about small things that might get in the way of success. You see the clear path ahead, you address obstacles with proper perspective, and the prospect of failure doesn’t occur to you. Though it may sound cliché, it is very true that purpose allows you to be and operate as your most authentic self — the ultimate combination of purpose, passion and persistence. That, in my experience, is key to career success.

Tracy Doyle
President, Pheonix Group
Know your worth. When I started Phoenix I did not feel worthy of calling myself CEO — why? I didn’t have an MBA, I didn’t hold senior management positions before starting my company, I wasn’t a trained leader. My turning point: I was invited to join a pitch to a start-up company in the United Kingdom. The CEO was Jim Ratcliffe, who owns Ineos Chemicals Group and is the 10th wealthiest person in the United Kingdom. The situation was that Jim acquired a pharmaceutical asset. Following the pitch, Jim was asking me many questions one of which was “if you were me, would you invest in this start-up and go for it or would you sell it?” I recall at the time thinking to myself, “Why on Earth is this guy asking me these questions?” I proceeded to give him my assessment of his asset and what I perceived to be the U.S. market opportunity and said if it were me, I would go for it. As I was flying back to home that night, I could not understand why he was directing all of his questions to me. It suddenly occurred to me that we were speaking CEO to CEO. That was my Aha! moment and from that point forward I changed my title to CEO. I realized that if this very successful man could see my worth, it was time for me to see it and embrace it too.

The Next Generation

Great leaders recognize their responsibility in setting a good example but more than that they selflessly help bring along the next generation of leaders. Our executives talk about why mentoring up-and-coming women leaders is a personal commitment.

Erin Byrne
CEO, ghg | greyhealth group
Ghg has an amazingly talented team, and I feel a responsibility to lead by example, and be available as a mentor to our entire workforce. We are in the process of putting career plans in place for our team, to help them grow their career in the way that is most important to them. And, our ghg University program features our leadership and operations team every month, to ensure that our executive team is as invested in our people as we are our clients.

Sharon Callahan
CEO, TBWA\WorldHealth; Chief Client Officer, Omnicom Health Group
I am a founding member of Omniwomen, Omnicom’s network that is dedicated to developing female leaders. It’s grown from a group of seven women in New York to an international organization with chapters in every major market. Based on the success of Omniwomen, I helped to start OPEN Pride, to fuel the personal growth, organizational inclusion, and business success of Omnicom’s LGBT employees and allies. I’m proud that Open Pride has expanded to five global chapters in less than a year.

Judy Capano
Managing Partner/Chief Operating Officer, Calcium
Any woman leader should feel a responsibility to mentor other women. Women need to be visible in their organizations and create an open forum to discuss issues that are unique to women.

Kym Denny
CEO, hVIVO
As a mother and female CEO, I want to be a positive role model and show women they can be successful and achieve a satisfying work-life balance without sacrificing one for the other. I firmly believe that to achieve success as a leader you need good people alongside you and working with you. I try to ensure that hVIVO has a supportive culture where women help one another, leveraging their strengths to make each other successful.

Darlene Dobry
Managing Partner, Ogilvy CommonHealth Worldwide, a WPP Health & Wellness company
It’s important for those of us who are in leadership positions to set an example for others to follow. The culture of an organization is often formed from the behavior modeled by its leaders, and I take that to heart. I believe in holding myself and others accountable, maintaining a positive attitude, which is infectious, showing respect and concern for others, and maintaining my moral compass at all times. In this way, I lead by example, look for opportunities to mentor, and help women navigate their career journey and build their networks.

Deborah Dunsire, M.D.
CEO, XTuit Pharmaceuticals
I don’t view this as a responsibility as much as a privilege. I am happy to share my learnings along the way — what has worked and what has not, to help another person along their path. I meet so many incredibly capable women in the early part of their career, it makes me very hopeful that we will achieve gender parity in the coming years.

Eva Jack
Chief Business Officer, Mersana Therapeutics
I feel that I should be a role model for other women. I’m active with organizations that support women in executive positions at start-up companies in the life sciences. In addition, I act as a mentor for women who are looking to develop and grow in their careers where I can share my experiences, or act as a sounding board to discuss issues they specifically have questions about and are looking for some counsel.

Melanie Nallicheri
Chief Business Officer & Head Biopharma, Foundation Medicine
One of the ways in which we can influence the number of women in C-suite and board position is by making it attractive for women to be there — setting examples for others to want to follow and aspire to those roles. For me, what this means is we can’t just be successful at our jobs, but we need to demonstrate that we’ve achieved a balance between our professional and personal lives. Equally as important, we can directly influence other women’s careers by being mentors, advocates, and sponsors; by creating new opportunities for them; speaking up on their behalf; and being their champions. When I think about the many women leaders I know and have seen rise through the ranks, they had to work hard and apply grit and lots of energy to achieve the highest levels of success despite many obstacles. Often there is a belief that this is only path forward. There has always been a sense that as women, we must do it perfectly — work harder, apply ourselves more, and fight for it. To truly affect change, we need to reach out more to each other and look for ways to be advocates for future generations of women leaders. This is essential to our future success and to turning the tables on gender equality. Also, as many of us know, there is nothing more rewarding than seeing one of your mentees be successful. If you are in a position to change someone else’s trajectory, don’t hesitate, ever.

Gisela Schwab, M.D.
Chief Medical Officer, Exelixis
Because I have been fortunate to have had great role models in my life, it’s important to me to pay it forward by helping other women and men in their career growth. To build leaders, you have to enable and empower your teams — allow them to be independent — but also be there to remove hurdles and coach them along the way. Beyond this, I try to serve as a role model through external speaking opportunities.

Wendy White ­
Principal Consultant, Wendy White Consulting
We all have a responsibility to be a role model for other women, to ensure each of us doesn’t have to recreate the wheel each time and the more we share what we’ve learned, the faster we all succeed. I work to share lessons learned by mentoring, working on ad boards, and taking leadership roles in groups such as the HBA, which demonstrate leadership in action and specifically program for women’s success in the field.(PV)

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