January / February 2020

Women in Pharma® Expands Its Global Reach

Caroline Rocks, CEng
Women in Pharma® Expands Its Global Reach

Since its inception at the ISPE 2016 Annual Meeting & Expo, Women in Pharma® (WIP) has been rapidly growing. In the US and Europe, the society has held numerous Women in Pharma® events at local Affiliates, Chapters, and Annual Meetings & Expos, and it is now establishing a presence in Asia. On 27 September 2019, the inaugural Women in Pharma® event in Asia—a panel discussion on the “Influence of Culture Across Countries and Organizations in Achieving Gender Diversity”—was held as part of the 2019 ISPE South Asia Pharmaceutical Manufacturing Conference in Bangalore, India, with a full house of more than 200 participants.

Inaugural ISPE Women in Pharma® Event Held in India at the 2019 ISPE South Asia Pharmaceutical Manufacturing Conference

The panel consisted of both women and men working for manufacturing companies, service providers, and regulatory agencies, representing different countries and career stages. This diversity of perspectives was evident in an insightful discussion.

The panelists were:

David Churchward
Head of Operations Quality, Compliance and External Affairs
Ranjana B. Pathak, DHA
President-Global Quality, Medical Affairs & Pharmacovigilance
Cipla Ltd.
Richi Sethi
Bioprocess Systems Specialist, Merck Life Science
Merck Life Science
Aditi S. Thakur
Senior Pharmaceutical Quality Assessor
Frank Verni, RPh, MPH
RPh, MPH, Compliance Officer
Frances M. Zipp
President & CEO
Lachman Consultant Services


Caroline Rocks, CEng
Senior Program Manager
AbbVie, Inc.

Session Proceedings

Zipp opened the session by offering background information about the ISPE Women in Pharma® initiative and details on its various aspects, including Mentor Circles and travel grants. She issued a call to action to the audience to encourage their women colleagues to become part of this initiative.

Pathak shared insights about working in the US and India as a woman leader, including distinctive aspects of her experiences in each country.

Thakur spoke about her own career journey from studying and living in India to moving to the US, and how some aspects were unplanned, such as moving from her initial career as a chemist in research and development to joining the FDA.

Sethi shared the challenges associated with unconscious bias that she experienced at the beginning of her engineering career and asked the audience to be more aware of this issue for women engineers who are just starting out.

Both Pathak and Zipp followed up, emphasizing that although the industry has made tremendous progress in achieving gender diversity since they started their careers 30 years ago, challenges persist. Women in the industry still need encouragement and empowerment.

Churchward shared his perspective on how diversity and culture can impact conduct in compliance or inspection. Teams of empowered and diverse individuals can facilitate critical thinking and reduce bias. This enables robust decision-making based on quantitative risk management to ensure product quality, while also contributing to an “enabling environment” for personal development. Churchward reflected that this approach is also applicable to inspection teams; specifically, the skills and perspectives used to assess compliance will differ as teams operate in different cultural environments.

Women in Pharma®
John Bournas, ISPE President and CEO, and the panel. From left to right: John Bournas, David Churchward, Caroline Rocks, Ranjana Pathak, Aditi Thakur, Frank Verni, Richi Sethi, and Fran Zipp, 2020 ISPE International Board of Directors Chair and President and CEO of Lachman Consultant Services, Inc.

Verni emphasized that when you limit the degree of diversity in a workplace, you lose an immense untapped pool of talent, skills, and experiences. A diverse workforce increases creativity and productivity. And, “it will reduce fear and grow a strong quality culture that will in turn benefit the company in a multitude of areas. As an added bonus, it will also boost the company’s reputation among a variety of stakeholders.”

Zipp shared her perspective on the unique challenges working parents encounter in a manufacturing environment, and how to overcome them. “These days, work demands more than a 9-to-5 commitment. Therefore, you need backup plans. Ask people for help—needing people does not make you needy! I raised my three children for the most part alone, and I was most grateful for the support of family, friends, and coworkers,” she said. “Also, be realistic and make choices that you can live with—if you want a job that requires you to travel, accept that you will need help with household items and childcare. If you cannot accept that or afford that, find another role.”

Key Facts About the Women in Pharma® Event in India

  • 200+ attendees
  • Regulatory and industry panelists
  • Representatives of Europe, the US, and Asia
  • Women and men attendees
  • Early career, midcareer, and C-suite

Advice on Balance

The panelists agreed that it was challenging to achieve the correct work-life balance. They shared some advice on how they use flexible working hours to balance work and family commitments.

“You have to be honest with yourself and recognize that you only have a finite amount of time and energy to split between your work life and personal life,” said Verni. “You have to focus on what your goals are and ultimately what makes you happy. Whether it’s becoming a director or spending more time with your family, embrace what makes you happy and pursue it.”

“Work-life balance is about what you choose and what is important to you,” Zipp stated. “No choice is perfect, and you are the only one who can judge your decisions.”

When the audience was invited to ask questions and share comments, Deva Puranan, Head of Global Quality Investigations for Mylan, raised the important point that a successful career requires support and encouragement not only from your organization but also, and even more so, from friends and family. He attributed his own career success to the strong support he receives from his wife and family.

Become Involved In Women in Pharma®

Go to Women in Pharma® for more information, including a toolkit to organize your own Affiliate/Chapter Women in Pharma® event and Women in Pharma® iSpeak blog posts. If you would like to get in touch directly with the Women in Pharma® Committee, email or join our online community.