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Tips for advancing women in workplace discussed at BioNJ conference

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Four women on stage for panel
The first panel, "Creating the Best Places to Work for Women, included, from left, Elizabeth Hioe, Britt Byers, Madhu Ghosh and Joanne Golankiewicz.

Advice on creating the best places to work for women and how to leverage a women’s network were discussed at the Inspiring Women in STEM Conference, presented by BioNJ. About 200 women attended the conference on Dec. 1 at Sanofi in Bridgewater.

A common theme for the first half of the conference was how to strengthen policies and programs to advance women in the workplace, including initiatives that make life fit with work.

“It takes rigor to embed this,” said Elizabeth Hioe, partner at McKinsey & Co., who moderated a panel, “Creating the Best Places to Work for Women,” and also presented highlights from her company’s Women in the Workplace study. Hioe noted that companies need to assess the participation rates of programs to advance women. “It isn’t just enough to have the programs,” she said.

Perhaps the most popular comment at the conference, which drew spontaneous applause, was when a Novo Nordisk exec said the rule in the unit she manages is that no emails can be sent to colleagues after 6 p.m. on weekdays, nor on weekends. Joanne Golankiewicz, VP of Commercial Effectiveness at Novo Nordisk, also said she makes sure men, not just women, on her team are taking advantage of family leave.

The panel also covered the importance of finding a sponsor, versus just having a mentor. “Sponsorship is putting some skin in the game,” said Britt Byers, associate VP & head of Employee Experience at Sanofi Business Services. She noted that sponsors put their reputation on the line while promoting you, and can sometimes be working behind the scenes.

Madhu Ghosh, senior director of strategic accounts for Life Sciences Solutions at Thermo Fisher Scientific, recommended making a 15-minute appointment with top leaders in the company and asking them about themselves. Ghosh also advised to help others on your way up the ladder. “Learn to pay it forward. I wouldn’t be here without mentors,” she said.

A second panel, “Making the Most of a Women’s Network,” examined how to start, or grow, a women-focused employee resource group or ERG. Lynne Anderson, partner at Drinker, Biddle & Reath, moderated the discussion and gave tips about how she started a women’s group at her law firm.

Prudential Financial has “roadshows” to promote collaboration across ERGs, said Cindy Elgamil, senior human resources analyst at Prudential Financial. She added that having women in the pipeline to leadership positions is critical, not a nice-to-have.

Melissa Stahl, senior director of KPMG’s Life Sciences Practice, said KPMG wants to reflect what its clients look like. Stahl said the business case for diversity is: “how do you bring the best ideas to the table to support the end users.”

Jennifer Asay, who has worked in the biopharma industry for more than 20 years, said it is important to know the needs of the employees you are serving in the ERG, and recommended surveying those people, either formally or informally.

The panel touched on mentoring as well. Kim Fox, communications leader for the chief medical officer’s office at Johnson & Johnson, said men who have mentored women have told her that they learned from their mentee, as well as sharing advice.

A lunchtime discussion was moderated by Laura Chubb, intellectual property partner at Haug Partners, and covered the career journeys of Michele Korfin, VP of Market Access at Kite Pharma, and Terri Matkovits, executive VP and head of Drug Development at ContraVir Pharmaceuticals.

The final panel, on innovation, was moderated by Judith Sheft, associate VP of Technology Development at New Jersey Institute of Technology. When asked what other skills besides tech the panelists use to foster innovation, the three women said they try to learn about new things, by meeting new people or attending conference sessions on topics they know nothing about, as two examples. The panelists were Treena Arinzeh, professor of biomedical engineering at NJIT; Tina Garyantes, VP of Therapeutics at Chomocell; and MaryAnne Rizk, VP of Global Partner Business at Oracle Health Science.