Women in pharma: the battle against mansplaining continues

Published: 22-Mar-2024

Prejudice in the workplace is an affliction suffered by many, but how can the industry be free from this nasty virus?

Being a woman in business can be an interesting and sometimes tiresome affair; those working in male-dominated industries, such as pharma, understand this all too well.

Prejudice and unexplained disparities in treatment plague women’s history, with bad smells such as the gender pay gap and a lack of female leadership leaving our noses crinkling to this day.

However, it’s not all doom and gloom. True gender equality crawls slowly towards the realm of reality and scientific organisations are realising the importance of representation in their cohort. Somebody who understands the cruciality of this change is Edita Botonjic-Sehic, the Head of Process Analytics and Data Science at ReciBioPharm.

Annabel Kartal-Allen speaks to Edita to find out what’s being done and how the industry can encourage, empower and engage talented women.


So, what progress have we made?

Edita comments: “There has been progress, but it’s slow. A diversity in biotech report shows that only 34% of executive teams and 20% of CEOs are women. This suggests that the perception that men are better suited to leadership roles in our sector still prevails.”

“However, the balance of male versus female hires is definitely shifting, with more women being given the chance to break into the industry and make a difference. Although the industry might have a higher prevalence of men as leaders, it’s our responsibility to deliver, network, educate and support others … and many women in the industry are coming together to do this. This, with time and consistency, will organically eradicate the bias that exists today.”

She stresses: “Bias will never be eliminated, though, unless it’s acknowledged that this prejudice exists in the first place. Once we’ve got there, we can successfully move forward.”

Like this story? Subscribe to Manufacturing Chemist magazine for the latest news, updates and expert-written articles from the global pharmaceutical and biopharma sectors. For more information click here.


What now?


Supporting women in the industry

There are many approaches that companies in pharma can take to be more inclusive, Edita explains: “In my career, I have been fortunate to have supportive mentors, access to great role models and networking opportunities. Having support in early career development is essential in any workplace, but particularly relevant
in environments in which women are often undervalued, such as the pharmaceutical industry.”

Giving women opportunities

She also emphasises the importance of making projects available that are catered to fortifying women: “I consider myself to be a thought leader. During my years in the industry, I’ve been engaged in several initiatives and programmes offering strategic thinking and development. These activities offer women the chance to excel — chasing that promotion if they so desire.”


Edita Botonjic-Sehic, Head of Process Analytics and Data Science at ReciBioPharm

Edita Botonjic-Sehic, Head of Process Analytics and Data Science at ReciBioPharm


Empowering young women

Although it’s important to focus on those already in the industry, inspiring younger generations with unfound talent is equally important, Edita explains: “This process starts with early education and motivating young women to be interested in STEM.

There’s been a significant rise in success stories from women in pharma, with some of them changing the world. Having them as role models will inspire younger generations to pursue opportunities in this lucrative field. Unfortunately, many women lose interest in STEM during their teenage years, but establishing partnerships with schools and community projects can inspire them, creating the newest generation of incredible talent.”

Boosting representation

Edita believes the industry should do more to welcome women and show them they can be successful within it, by leading from example: “A lack of female representation could lead to imposter syndrome for those embarking on a career in this sector or even prevent them from working in this field at all. Women are vastly underrepresented in our industry and female scientists must become more visible to show young women that it’s possible to achieve great things.”

Pharma is a field bursting with opportunity and if all talent was valued and individuals empowered, the possibilities are endless. A big step towards this would be to fight for workplace equality and, with further engagement and perseverance, the industry could achieve just this.


You may also like