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Women in science? Absolutely.

Strong career paths and cutting-edge science draw more women to our small molecule process R&D team

February 23, 2021

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Women have historically been underrepresented in the field of process research and development – the space between drug discovery and manufacturing.  However, over the past six years, the percentage of women on our company’s small molecule process research & development team (SM PR&D) team has nearly doubled.

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“This progress is important because it reflects our mindset that diversity and inclusion fuel creativity and innovation.”

Jamie McCabe Dunn

director, process chemistry

“Our group today looks dramatically different than it did when I first started 11 years ago because we’ve taken steps to build more diverse teams,” says Jamie.

And, female biologists, chemists and engineers are vital to our success.

“While we have come a long way in the last decade, achieving greater gender equity must continue to be a priority for all leaders,” says Kevin Campos, associate vice president.

One successful approach has been for women leaders to take more active roles in recruiting talent. This allows  for greater relationship building among female candidates and provides a vision for growth opportunities at our company.

“We’re also expanding relationships with more academic institutions and casting a wider net to find excellent talent,” says Jamie. “As more women join the company and see the strong career paths open to them, we expect to see even greater diversity.”

Forging her path in a male-dominated field

Fifteen years ago, when Marguerite Mohan joined our company, she was one of a small group of women on the team. Although not different from what she experienced academically, she recalls being asked whether she thought this environment would limit her.

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“I had no concerns being in the gender minority…I knew I was here because of my ability.”

Marguerite Mohan

executive director, chemical engineering, SM PR&D

“I loved being a chemical engineer and wanted to apply my skills where I’d make an impact on people’s lives. The interface of research and manufacturing was a great place to start,” says Marguerite.

Tasked with developing and scaling up processes to safely, innovatively and robustly produce drug candidates for clinical trials and commercial use — these teams deliver for patients through cutting-edge science.  They challenge the status-quo and try new things. That’s also how they recognize and develop talent.

“We’re committed to making sure everyone’s voice is heard and respected. This has allowed women to frame what technical growth looks like from our point of view, bringing diversity of thought to the problem- solving and leadership table,” says Marguerite. “By challenging the status quo, we’re creating stronger, more innovative teams filled with unique scientific talent.” 

A new generation of scientists

Niki Patel and Cindy Hong joined our company within the past four years — both drawn, in part, to our reputation as a scientific leader committed to improving human health.

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A woman scientist working in a lab

“I was very aware of the team’s novel and innovative science through publications in high-profile, peer- reviewed journals and presentations at conferences. This was a place where I wanted to do great science,” says Niki, associate principal scientist. 

It was also a place where both knew they’d fit in.

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“As a female graduate student, I was definitely outnumbered. But, when I interviewed here, I saw such diversity on the teams – including at leadership levels."

Cindy Hong

senior scientist

“I knew this environment was right for me,” says Cindy. “I’ve worked with great female and male leaders since joining the company and been exposed to many different areas of expertise. I see real opportunities for growth.”

Strong networks fuel continued growth

Strong networks and outreach are important to not only maintain a pipeline to potential female candidates but also retain and promote those already on the team.  They can include things like collaborative communities, mentor programs, publishing papers or grassroots efforts.

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“We’re empowered to take steps to support women in this field.”

Niki Patel

associate principal scientist

“For example, I’ve helped organize forums to discuss topics on diversity and inclusion and participated in career panels geared toward supporting women and underrepresented groups in the field,” says Niki.

Sometimes, that support might simply be a quick note of recognition.

 “I try to acknowledge micro-accomplishments in the moment – things that seem small but are important to that person,’” says Marguerite. “It’s a simple, personal way to show someone they — and their work — matter.”

Can women have a successful career in PR&D?  Absolutely. 

As Marguerite says, “Know your core, be true to it and value what makes you a unique asset.”

A woman scientist working in the lab

Are you interested in a career in R&D?