January / February 2021

Women in Pharma®: Lessons Learned

Jennifer Lauria Clark, CPIP
Women in Pharma®: Lessons Learned

My parents always told me when I was growing up that I could be anything I wanted to be. They strongly steered me in the direction of engineering at North Carolina State University, so that I would be able to earn a degree that would ensure my future was my own. When I was eight years old, I was introduced to a pharma company my dad worked for and you could say my love of this industry has been in my blood ever since.

I began my biopharma career with the same firm in 2000 as an intern, and since then I have worked with people who have been my champions, my mentors, my sponsors, and my friends. Over the course of my 17-year career in this industry, I have learned many things. As we celebrate Women in Pharma® (WIP) in this issue of Pharmaceutical Engineering®, I highlight a few of my most memorable lessons.

Always Strive to Do Your Best

While an intern, I had the worst desk possible: I sat at a table where all the mailboxes were for the entire floor. There was not enough room for me on the crowded floor, and I was often interrupted. To me, it did not matter. I was working for a top pharma company and learning about quality assurance, building relationships in the workplace, and how to mine data. My work was not sexy, and I did not get a chance to meet the CEO, but what I did learn was patience, and to have a questioning attitude to accomplish my job. I entered batch record data into a spreadsheet line after line for days, and I was an integral part of my manager getting what he needed. The people I worked with remember me as someone always looking to understand the tasks, willing to do anything, and for being kind and respectful. No matter the situation in your personal or professional lives, always strive to do your best.

Never Give Up

As we have navigated our Women in Pharma® initiative, we have had challenges along the way, most notably the majority of last year being uncertain because of the global pandemic. Our team met diligently every two weeks to be agile and flexible when it came to providing the content women (and men) were craving during a time of isolation and uncertainty. How can you feel lonely when you are in your house with your family … all the time? Well, I can promise you that as a people person who gains energy from being around others, it happens. I believe wholeheartedly that our Women in Pharma® initiative kept me going on my toughest days. Knowing that we were working our best to provide an outlet for people to listen to the wisdom of others, learn from our mistakes, and be empowered to never give up on trying to better yourself got me through several tough days.

Wisdom Can Come from All Age Groups

I believe you need generational experience to share your wisdom with people when it comes to certain topics. I also believe that the young people of our industry have the potential to be smarter than we ever aspired to be. The next generation are digital natives. They grew up with iPhones, full transparency, and instant access. If they want to understand the difference between a gene therapy and a monoclonal antibody, they pick up their phones and they digest the information much more quickly than I did growing up. Our Women in Pharma® millennials have been inspirations to me this past year as they teach me the value of listening, creating a culture of diversity, and perseverance through hard times. Take the time to listen to all around you and you may be surprised at the brilliant ideas that can rise to the top through diverse thought and diverse groups of people. Take time for all others in your sphere of influence because wisdom can come from any age group.

Celebrate Everything

I was going to say celebrate the little things, but with the past year we have had, I say celebrate it all! Women in Pharma® overcame the challenges of flexing into a virtual world to bring together over 400 women and men into 21 mentor groups in 25 countries. We exceeded our goal of raising $25,000 toward Women in Pharma® programming and the ISPE Foundation. We held meetings, networking events, webinars, confidential conversations, book clubs, and sunrise to sundown events—all for the purposes of bringing people together and allowing them to learn from each other.

These are all things to celebrate. I celebrate not yelling before 7 a.m. daily since I am juggling being a full-time working-from-home mom while monitoring my children’s virtual learning five days a week. I celebrate a quick visit with my sister after a full day of work and three hours of grad school class since her home is on my way home from school. I also celebrate taking time for me. So many of us are not making time for ourselves right now as we learn to navigate our new normal. Have some tea, work out for 30 minutes, or call a friend you have not talked to in a while.

WIP is a safe place where you can be vulnerable, share your dreams and challenges, and have a place to be celebrated.

We are all in need of some motivation today. None of us are in ideal situations right now, but please know that WIP is a safe place where you can be vulnerable, share your dreams and challenges, and have a place to be celebrated.

Women in Pharma® is not doing anything new; we are just taking extraordinary measures during these trying times to ensure we are:

  • Empowering women as leaders
  • Establishing mentorships to improve effectiveness
  • Building and leveraging diversity
  • Exposing women to opportunities in technology and science

This year, Women in Pharma® has committed to help increase our membership by 100 people through our programs and to raise $85,000 for our programming. Our programs affect diverse communities all over the world, giving everyone an opportunity to dig deeper into ISPE and our industry.

We are proud that Joanne Barrick, ISPE International Board Chair, and Tom Hartman, President and CEO of ISPE, have given us an opportunity to build upon our success during 2021 that will help change the lives of so many people around the world.

I invite you to join ISPE and our Women in Pharma® initiative in your individual journey to improve the working world and focus on creating diverse thought and teams within your organizations and at home.