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Overcoming Obstacles - Women in Pharma Series

Alayna Russell
Women in Pharma -series - ISPE Pharmaceutical Engineering

Participants gathered for the Women in Pharma breakfast on day 2 of the 2017 ISPE/FDA/PQRI Quality Manufacturing Conference, held 5 – 7 June 2017. Women in Pharma chair, Fran Zipp, CEO and President, Lachman Consultants and ISPE Board Member, welcomed the audience of more than 100 attendees for a panel on “Bringing Education to Gender Parity.” There were such powerful exchanges of knowledge and experience during this breakout session that we felt it was beneficial to share. Last month, we blogged about our greatest failures; this month, we will explore common speed bumps we face on our road to success in the second installment of a 12-month series: “It’s Time to Give Back.”

Overcoming Obstacles

The question posed to the table was about the greatest obstacle to your career success, and the answer was surprisingly unanimous: Me; I’m my worst enemy. Obviously, this meant different things to different people, but the bottom line is to get out of your own way!

Let’s start with the voice in your head: What is it telling you? As experiences and stories were shared among the participants, I came to the realization that yes, we are our own worst enemies, and fear is the driving force behind that annoying little voice in our heads.

Fear is what caused a successful woman to bite her tongue in a job interview when asked what she could contribute to the company. She listened to the voice in her head that told her the good ol’ boys club was not ready to accept her (a woman) and ultimately sold herself short by losing out on a promotion. Don’t pity her though; you can bet she never made that mistake again!

Fear crept in when a male was presented with two equally qualified candidates: one female, one male. The following questions ran though his thoughts: How will I be perceived if I promote a woman? What if I pick the man; am I gender biased? Courage took over when he chipped away at changing the organizational culture, and he hired the woman—not because he felt bad for her or was worried about how he’d be perceived—but because she was the best fit for the company.

Fear was leaving a job that provided comfort, security, and familiarity for opportunities that presented growth and success. Venturing outside of our comfort zones opens us up for risk, aka a four-letter word in our industry. However, this was an opportunity—a catalyst for growth to thrive at peak performance! John & Johnson’s Vice President of Worldwide Engineering & Technical Operations, Jim Breen, shared that he thinks about how many things he wished he had tried—not just in his career but earlier in life too. Many times, he said, it was others who pushed him outside his comfort zone and that these “out-of-comfort-zone” times were some of the most positive experiences he has had.

This brings us back full circle to the reason for Women in Pharma. “It’s time to give back.” Next time you see people struggling in their careers, ask yourself what you can do to get them out of their own way; squash the man vs. woman gender bias, and/or push them outside of their comfort zones. We must turn crippling fear around and use it to fuel ourselves!

ISPE is proud to present two sessions dedicated to the success of Women in Pharma at the 2017 Annual Meeting & Expo. Join us as key female executives in the pharmaceutical industry lead these sessions focusing on professional development and technical knowledge.

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