CBI Scene Blog

Empowering Women in the Life Sciences: Insights from IVT’s 2nd Annual Women in Validation Empowerment Summit

Posted by Melanie Demakis on Nov 9, 2018 3:00:31 PM

According to data published in a January 2017 survey, conducted by LeanIn.org and McKinsey & Co., women hold 45% of entry level positions but only 19% of C-suite roles in the Medtech industry. For every 100 women promoted to a managerial position, 130 men climb up the ladder, according to the study.

In an analysis of Gender Diversity in the top 10 largest biopharma companies conducted earlier this year, it was discovered that 98 corporate officer positions are held by men while only 30 are held by women.

As recently as last month, the Society for Women Engineers updated the latest statistics about women in engineering. SWE reports:

  • Only 13% of engineers are women.
  • Only 26% of computer scientists are women.
  • Female engineers earn 10% less than male engineers.
  • 61% of women engineers report that they have to prove themselves repeatedly to get the same level of respect and recognition as their colleagues.

Working Toward Gender Parity

IVT’s flagship conference, Validation Week, recently hosted the 2nd Annual Women in Validation Empowerment Summit.

The Summit kicked off with a panel of esteemed women leaders in the bio/pharma, medical device and technology industries, including:

  • Karen Ginsbury, Founder and CEO, PCI Pharmaceutical Consulting Israel Ltd
  • Connie Hetzler, Global Head of Validation, Manufacturing Science & Technology, Alcon Laboratories, a division of Novartis
  • Roberta Goode, MSBE, CQE, Altrec, LLC
  • Valarie King-Bailey, Chief Executive Officer, OnShore Technology Group

Convening more than 60 women and men from various roles, career stages and educational backgrounds, this Summit sparked a critically important conversation among professionals exchanging strategies, stories and shared challenges in achieving gender parity in the life sciences industry.

Be Direct, Earn Respect

How do women earn credibility in the workplace? Working in roles such as quality, engineering, validation and statistics, this audience understands information through data. Connie Hetzler recommended that women should be data-based in their communications with upper management in order to earn credibility. The panel advised that when you walk into an important meeting, you should always follow the one-minute rule, where you capture your audience with compelling information in the first minute of a critical conversation. By following the one-minute rule and showing that you are results-driven, you will likely make yourself more credible and integral to the decision-making process.

While this is an effective strategy for gaining your rightful seat at the table, the next step is changing the status quo to a place where women facilitate and participate in such meetings, bringing both results-oriented strategy and compassion into the conversation.

There Is No Such Thing as Work/Life Balance

There were several disappointed sighs in the audience when panelist Roberta Goode shared this untold secret there truly isn’t such a thing as perfect work/life balance.

You don’t have to want to be a stay-at-home mom. You can choose to have a career and a family. How you do this is your choice. The panel advised that this process should start by deciding what work/life balance means to you and find the best way to make that work. Panelists shared their own stories, from raising a family while utilizing child care and carving out weekly lunch visits with a child, to fathers taking over primary care responsibilities so the woman could build her own company. The real answer to achieving work/life balance is to find the path that will satisfy both your personal and professional goals and work with the resources, family support and technical skills to achieve them.

Seek First to Understand and Second to Be Understood

Developing negotiation skills goes a long way in managing conflict in the workplace. There are many negotiation classes offered by prominent universities (i.e. Harvard, MIT, etc.) and many of which are specifically geared toward women. When facing a tense situation, a helpful strategy is to communicate in a way that your audience will respond to. Being direct, confident and knowledgeable of the situation will help you build your case, and it is always important to consider other points of view.

Women tend to ask less for the things they want, such as for increased salary and benefits or for a promotion. Valarie King-Bailey shared a story of a time her mentor encouraged her to ask for a new position and approach her manager by citing the data-driven facts of why she deserved that role. The manager responded that he thought she was happy with the position she was in and didn’t even consider her for the promotion until she asked. Be an advocate for yourself and find a mentor who will help advocate for you!


Everyone working in the life sciences industry is responsible for achieving gender parity. If you are a young professional starting out, identify the next step in your career and start building your toolbox with new opportunities and a variety of skills. If you are a manager, make sure all of your team members are earning the pay they deserve and correct any errors you find. If you are seasoned in your career, offer to mentor the younger generation. We all have a part to play – Women and men alike should have the confidence, skills and support to empower their careers.

Written by: Melanie Demakis




Topics: Validation and Manufacturing