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Women in STEM

A real example of how a person’s career can add value to people’s lives


Rhonda Duffy

Executive Vice President, Global Product Supply, LEO Pharma

“I love problem-solving and being part of a team. And I love that the work I do is to help other people to overcome their skin problems. STEM is full of social, rewarding careers like mine.”

How would you explain your STEM role to young girls?

I’m currently working for LEO Pharma, a global pharmaceutical company in which I am responsible for the entire manufacturing supply chain globally. That type of role has a very broad scope; ranging from sourcing the active pharmaceutical ingredients to ensuring the product has the intended therapeutic effect. We work with external manufacturers, so another role is collaborating across cultures, continents and throughout time zones to ensure a reliable and consistent supply chain. It’s competitive work, cutting edge stuff and a bit of a rocket ride.

For me, it has been a fantastic journey and an amazing experience.

What motivates you to work to the best of your ability? You have to think about what you are trying to deliver and for me, the issue is whether I am getting good quality products out to patients. What really motivates you when you are having a bad day are the letters you receive from patients thanking you for the medication we have delivered, the relief we have given and – occasionally – thanking you for the life that you’ve saved. Ultimately that’s what you are trying to do in any job; make a difference in this world. When you realise you’ve made such a positive change to just one person’s life, that feeling is truly incredible.

How are you encouraged to progress in your role at LEO Pharma?

I’ve gained self-awareness, a deeper understanding and greater personal development through moving roles within the organisation every two to three years. For me, the best development involves getting out there, getting hands on experience and seeing what it’s all about. This progression has taken me to sites around the world, including the role of Engineering Director in Copenhagen. During my undergraduate degree, my career guidance officer said, ‘…a woman will never get a job in engineering’. Needless to say, achieving that role gave me a lot of personal pleasure! Progression is about facing challenges. There are opportunities out there so just go for them.

UK/IE/MAT-17888     June 2018


Sinead Whelehan

Manager of Global Regulatory Affairs CMC, LEO Pharma

How would you explain your STEM role to young girls?

I am head of a team of regulatory professionals within research and development for an innovative global pharmaceutical company. We advise the company on the legal and scientific requirements in all regions. We work with teams to collect, collate and evaluate scientific data to ensure our products are safe, efficacious and manufactured to quality standards.  We also spend a lot of time discussing and negotiating with Health Authorities all over the world, from Denmark to Japan to the USA, to ensure our products are available to our patients globally.

What advice would you give to girls interested in pursuing a career in the STEM sector?

If you aren’t exactly sure which area you would like to work In, it’s best to look for a company where there are many disciplines and opportunities for movement within the organisation. For example, we have manufacturing, engineering, quality control, regulatory affairs as well as laboratories where scientists conduct chemical, analytical, raw materials and micro biology testing all these functions contribute to manufacturing and drug development activity. I’ve had the great opportunity to move around departments as part of a really positive employee development culture. The chance to gain experience in these areas before you decide on your specialism is well worth searching for.

Why is the effort to encourage more girls into STEM roles so important?

The STEM sector in Ireland is growing and a highly skilled workforce is needed. There are lots of women, like myself, working in this sector who can mentor and encourage ambitious young women through their development. I do not think women should hesitate coming into this sector. There is an incredible array of interesting, rewarding and exciting jobs available in the STEM sector and I would not like to see young women miss out on this opportunity.

UK/IE/MAT-17888     June 2018


Alma O’Reilly

Validation Manager, LEO Pharma

How would you explain your STEM role to young girls?

Our mission is to help people achieve healthy skin, that’s our main goal. We create different systems and innovative products that provide solutions, in a reliable way, to the people who need it. Interestingly the company has a really strong patient-focused ethic. As a foundation, profits are reinvested into generating new solutions for patients who need them. People forget that technical roles can have such a people-oriented focus. Within our organisation I lead a diverse team of talented engineers and scientists. It’s a collaborative approach between departments and we are all trying to get to the same goal – which is to make the best quality products that we can. 

What makes your job so exciting?

There are two key aspects that make it exciting for me: problem solving and seeing results. I’ve always liked problem solving, puzzles… that sort of thing. So it’s a natural interest for me. It is so exciting being involved in a supportive and collaborative team that’s dedicating time and energy to understand and solving problems, be it the process of innovating new products or increasing capacity of our delivery. To then see the difference you’ve made to patients’ lives at the end is fantastic. You gain so much through sharing knowledge, experiences and working together toward helping those who need it.

Have you ever encountered any issues as a woman in STEM in your career?

When you go into engineering you quickly realise there is a gender imbalance; although that is changing. At college, there was a huge proportion of men compared to women, probably less than 10% were women, some people can be intimidated but that was never an issue for me. At LEO Pharma women are well represented at all levels and departments. As you expect in any modern organisation our opinions are just as respected and we are treated exactly the same.  In recent years I’ve watched women join as new graduates and have seen their confidence grow. In the world of STEM everyone needs to collaborate and to ask how and why, without that we’d never find the answers! Women have a respected equal place in STEM, I believe women are definitely asking the right questions and finding amazing solutions!

UK/IE/MAT-17888     June 2018

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