Press Releases

Women in Biotech Demonstrate Innovation and Leadership and not a little fun!

3rd December 2015, by TranScrip's Managing Partner Flic Gabbay

Just over a week ago, Miranda Weston Smith ran the annual iteration of a symposium to recognise the contribution of women in biotech.  And, what a cast!  Led by Dame Sally Davies (Chief Medical Officer for England), Ruth McKernan (Chief Executive, Innovate UK) and a host of female speakers from biotech, including CEOs, Founders, Board Members and Team Leaders, the delegates shared their experiences in what it takes to make a difference in improving healthcare.

BioBeat 50 Movers and Shakers in BioBusiness 2015 recognises 50 women making a difference in healthcare.  I am extremely proud to be named as one of them.  It is a UK initiative which reflects similar efforts in academia and other industry sectors where women are under-represented.  ESMO and ASCO have had similar sessions this year to inspire younger women to reach greater levels in terms of their careers and particularly their influence in oncology.  All symposia have a common theme that women face different challenges balancing prejudices, confidence and, later for some, family.  Being feted on a podium in front of 500 people one minute and being brought down to size by a frustrated teenager the next!  It can bring refreshingly different innovative styles of management and leadership.

Steve Bates (CEO, UK BioIndustry Association) writes in the introduction to the BioBeat 50 listing “Initial analysis of BIA members shows that approximately half of UK biotech member companies have no female representation on their boards and that, in the last five years, women have featured very rarely in the appointment announcements of new CEOs in the sector.”  This illustrates that Miranda’s efforts are critical to bring the high flying women from the over female dominated basic scientist levels into more influential roles.

The conference did not dwell on challenge though (even if Vivenne Parry Head of Engagement for Genomics England and broadcaster had some very amusing tales to tell), but achievement.  Just looking at the platform was inspirational.  The speakers' approaches to their achievements were wide ranging.  In response to a question that could have been at any CEO meeting, “What training and advice should we give would-be Board members?”, Fiona Marshall (Founder and CSO of Heptares Therapeutics) suggested learning on Boards of Trustees of a charity.  I suspect such a response would not be on the top of a list of must dos in a more young male dominated arena.

Not only did we have some extraordinary stories to hear, but it was also an extremely useful scientific conference, which was appropriate as it was held at the Human Genome Campus.  The conference was closed by Dame Janet Thornton herself a true inspiration.  As Director of EMBL-EBI from October 2001 to June 2015 she played a key role in ELIXIR, the pan-European infrastructure for biological data, since its inception.

Thanks to Miranda for a great day – a great conference and some fantastic networking.  I came away with huge sense of enablement, not a little sense of “Wow! What a great group to be named amongst!” and a long list of things I want to do next!

The 50 Movers and Shakers in BioBusiness full listing can be located here.