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Lucy Chard
28 Feb 2023

Women in Pharma – Asmita Khanolkar Pharmapack 2023

At Pharmapack 2023, the CPHI team interviewed several leading women in the pharmaceutical industry about what it means to be a woman working in this field. Ahead of International Women’s Day on March 8, 2023, we are proud to provide a platform for women to speak out on the importance of representation in pharma. 

In this interview, we spoke to Asmita Khanolkar, Senior Director at Cambridge Pharma/Oval, SMC Ltd on the challenges women face and how the field needs to change. 

Challenges for women in pharma

Asmita Khanolkar addresses the challenges faced by women in pharma, she acknowledges that women in pharma are generally better represented than in other areas in STEM, up to 47% of the workforce compared to about 25% in other fields, but even with this there are still pitfalls that need to be addressed. 

Khanolkar chooses to focus on two key challenges; leadership, and innovation. In leadership roles, there are only around 8% of positions taken up by women, this shows how much the figure is filtered down from the approximate 40% in the general workforce at a lower level. This is something that is symptomatic of the wider workforce, retention of women in leadership positions is needed to give even just an accurate representation of the population’s point of view, as Khanolkar goes on to say: 

“Women make up 51% of the population so their voice has to be there in any solution they bring forward, so we’d just be missing out on half of the solution of any situation!”

The second challenge that Khanolkar highlights is in innovation. She quickly rattles off facts that show that women are not taken seriously as leaders in this area, with a lack of female-led projects and research papers. 

To overcome these challenges Khanolkar drives home how crucial it is to inspire women and girls from very early on and nurture that diversity of thought, rather than limiting it. 

“Understanding why it’s important to think outside the box, a lot of times the confidence level needs to be there to be able to say things outside the box, to be able to look beyond what you can see, and get to the other side of innovation, so education in those early years to get there is so important.”

Advice for women of colour

Khanolkar was brimming with advice, one of the key things she mentions is to try and find a mentor or a coach. Someone to connect with and who can provide support along the career path, especially if they’ve already paved the way. She also encourages proactivity, always being open to learning new things and again, building confidence. 

To conclude, Khanolkar wants to see more women in CEO positions, more diversity in the workspace, and to create an environment where men and women work together to drive innovation:

“That’s what is really going to make the difference in the pharma industry.”

Lucy Chard
Digital Editor - Pharma

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