May / June 2021

Women in Pharma® Editorial: Fueling the Fire - Learning to “Just Speak Up”

Vivianne J. Arencibia
Women in Pharma® Editorial: Vivianne Arencibia

This year’s Women in Pharma® (WIP) theme of “Fueling the Fire” harnesses the energy and passion that drive women to achieve career advancement, personal growth, and satisfaction. The 3 March webinar focused on the Diversity & Inclusion theme, where we discussed what we as leaders can do to drive greater diversity of thought and minimize the unconscious biases that limit organizations, teams, and individual growth.

Reflecting on my own career, the question was not how one can call out “group think,” but rather how to be credibly perceived as providing a viable alternative approach and when/how to speak up when feeling “shut down.”

Speaking Up

I learned that “just speaking up” effectively required a great deal of preparation and active listening to focus the argument and bring the audience along. As a young leader, I knew I had good points, creative ideas, and a lot of energy to bring forward a different perspective. However, to be able to influence and bring about change, I needed to understand the organizational culture, the history, the interests of my peers, and the drivers that prevented change. I needed to become part of the team and learn to ask questions that would prompt further dialogue. It is a life lesson, which I continue to practice with clients, peers, associates, and mentees.

Webinar participants wanted to know how to let leaders know that they do not allow diverse contributions; how and when it is appropriate to speak up; and how to be viewed as a valued contributor. I offer the following lessons learned.

Understand the perspectives of others, even if you don’t agree. Prepare, listen, and don’t make assumptions about why something will or will not work. The best solutions usually encompass multiple perspectives and contributions.

Assume goodwill. Don’t assume that you are being blocked because you offer a different perspective. Many biases are unintentional, so simply state that you would like the team to consider another perspective that will build on the discussion or the solution.

Don’t give up. You won’t always be successful. Your ideas may be further developed to a different outcome. You will be assessed by your ability to contribute collaboratively and respond professionally, even when you disagree. Ask yourself if you can support a decision and not fixate on whether or not the decision or approach is viable because it is different than what you wanted to propose or did propose.

Don’t be afraid to ask for feedback or an additional opportunity to be heard. If you feel you were not given an opportunity to contribute, speak to the team leader or manager after the meeting and let them know that you have researched a different perspective and would have liked an opportunity to contribute. This serves to help you understand how you can approach a future engagement, and allows the leader to recognize that he or she plays a role in ensuring that all team contributions are valued and diversity of thought is leveraged for the best outcome.

Treat others as you would like to be treated. As a team member, when you see someone being excluded, speak up and say, that “X has not had a chance to provide input,” or “I was speaking to X, and I think she has an interesting perspective.” Open the door for others to speak, and support and validate everyone’s contribution.

Women in Pharma® wants to continue to bring these and other discussions forward to help women in our industry work through workplace and personal challenges, whether real or self-imposed, to become our most effective, healthy, and satisfied selves. I invite you to join our community if you have not done so, get involved, and add your “fuel to the fire.” Together we can bring change!

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