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Turning the Tide: Women Leaders in Pharma Advocate for Diversity in STEM

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From the classroom to the boardroom, WLP strives to empower women in STEM and work toward equal representation in the workforce.

While some strides have been made in diversifying the workforce, women still comprise less than 25 per cent of the people employed in STEM careers1 in Canada. From the classroom to the boardroom, we need to see more women pursuing STEM careers — and not just for the sake of gender equality.

Gender equality in STEM has clear business implications right now and for the future. Increased diversity and representation in STEM mean a larger talent pool, a boost to the global economy, and greater innovation through the inclusion of new skill sets, unique perspectives, and critical thinking. Research has also shown that companies with greater diversity have significantly higher profitability than those without.2


Leading the way

One organization advocating for this change is Women Leaders in Pharma (WLP), a group dedicated to supporting and coaching women, and those who identify as women, who work in the life sciences and pharmaceutical industry — both today’s accomplished leaders and those of the future. Here, women come together to empower one another, pursue change, and remove barriers for future leaders. Members are encouraged to use their powerful voices to identify inequities and create solutions. Their mission is not limited to the pharmaceutical industry but extends to STEM as a whole. “We have a unique opportunity to write our own story. To ensure that every boardroom, every leadership team, and every level of the STEM ecosystem is equally represented by women,” said Milva D’Aronco, a founding member of the organization and President of the Board.

Change is often slow to take place, but there’s a strong sense that the tide is starting to turn, with more corporations placing a focus on diversity and inclusion.


STEM to drive innovation

A recent study from Statistics Canada shows that women made up only 44 per cent of first-year STEM students aged 19 or less in undergraduate programs but accounted for more than 64 per cent of students in other disciplines.3

WLP hopes that more women will be encouraged to enter the field by highlighting what it means to work in an industry that values and often demands competency in STEM. “The pharma industry is all about people leveraging science to help other people,” says Sarah Robertson, a pharmaceutical executive and WLP Vice-President. “It’s an industry in which you can effect change that impacts people’s lives. Not only is this professionally challenging, but it’s also personally rewarding.” 

“It’s an exciting time to work in the pharmaceutical industry. Innovation is at the centre of all that we do to provide the best experience for our customers. Digital health is transforming care, medical practice, and how pharma innovations reach patients. Women can play a pivotal role in making this happen,” adds member and committee volunteer Negar Azari, a pharmaceutical marketing manager.

We believe the health-care industry benefits from balanced leadership. Representing over 400 members nationwide, WLP strives to live its mission by sharing experiences and knowledge with other women in the pharmaceutical industry.

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