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Dr Donna Sexton

Clinical, Medical & Regulatory Director, Novo Nordisk

If more young women are to choose pharma careers, they need to see female role models succeeding in the industry.

When I look at my own team, I see a number of women with backgrounds in, for example, biomedical science, biomedical engineering, pharmacy and pharmacology. There’s a good culture of support in the company, with a focus on work-life balance and flexibility.

However, to encourage more women into our sector, we have a requirement and a responsibility to stimulate their STEM curiosity at an early age — not just in transition year.

Science learning in schools has to be more consistent and structured, and students need to know what is possible career-wise if they take a combination of STEM subjects. Then, when they join the industry, the onus is on companies like ours to make sure they receive constant learning and development.

The positive impact of role models and mentors

It is important for girls and young women to have role models and mentors. When I first joined the industry, I worked closely with colleagues who had a range of diverse experience, and I observed their career trajectories with interest.

Now I’d like to think young women can look at my own career trajectory — and of others — to see that opportunities for advancement do exist, and if they work hard, they can thrive.

Owen Treacy

General Manager, Novo Nordisk

If more young women are to choose pharma careers, they need to see female role models succeeding in the industry.

I don’t think there’s a widespread understanding of the commercial side of the pharmaceutical industry. In Ireland, when people hear the word ‘pharma’ the first thought is often of pharmaceutical manufacturing and biomedical engineering and the important part that plays in our economy.

While it’s very important that we keep researching and uncovering new medical advances, it’s only the commercialisation of those molecules that turns an interesting development into true innovation.

People may not fully appreciate what happens to the products after they’ve been developed, and how they get into the hands of pharmacists, doctors and, ultimately, patients.

So, there’s more we can do to open students’ eyes to the possibilities of a career on this side of the sector which can utilise many of their skills and talents.

Alternative career opportunities in pharma

In Novo Nordisk, approximately 75% of our employees in Ireland are women and our Leadership Team is equally representative of women and men. Irrespective of gender, there are many opportunities for individuals to be challenged and develop into new roles and responsibilities either within the country or beyond that are outside of their primary degrees. The industry offers tremendous scope for personal and career development.

Novo Nordisk operate in 140 countries, so there are ample opportunities for people who want international experience, and a chance to experience how the business is run in other parts of the world. With a sharp focus on purpose, sustainability and innovation, Novo Nordisk has a lot to offer STEM graduates.

Patricia McVann

Obesity Business Unit Director, Novo Nordisk

If more young women are to choose pharma careers, they need to see female role models succeeding in the industry.

There is a spectrum of opportunity available in the pharmaceutical industry for people from all kinds of backgrounds, be they science graduates, pharmacists or like me, a healthcare professional.

Coming from a nursing background I joined the pharmaceutical industry first working in sales and then transitioned into marketing  — something that perhaps wouldn’t necessarily be associated with STEM. Yet my background informs a vital part in communicating information about medicines to healthcare professionals.

An exciting future for commercial pharma

The value of bringing people like myself into the sector is that we have a particular knowledge of the healthcare environment and understand the patient journey very well. In my experience, there’s a good mix of men and women in commercial pharma.

A focus of the pharmaceutical industry is developing technology that will more than ever increase its support to patients and enhance medicine delivery.

For example, telemedicine is playing a more significant role and a lot of patient engagement and support is being done via app and other platforms. We will be relying more on this technology in the future. It’s an exciting development and another reason for STEM graduates to consider a career in the sector.

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