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Vivian Xie
2 Mar 2023

Women in Pharma – Karin von Kienlin Pharmapack 2023

This year at Pharmapack 2023 in Paris, France, the CPHI Online 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 caught up with Karin von Kienlin, Managing Director and Member of the Global Board at L.E.K. Consulting, to discuss the challenges women face that men might not even think about, and how the industry is changing to address these issues.

Bringing hidden issues to the forefront 

When speaking about the hidden challenges of working in the pharma industry that others may not think about, von Kienlin gives two broad areas where such individuals may find specific difficulties while working in pharma: a lack of resources for caregivers (von Kienlin notes that this encompasses caregivers of any gender, race, ability etc., including men) when balancing career and personal commitments, and a lack of confidence in individuals, mostly women, compared to their true abilities. Such difficulties often remain hidden to those who are not directly impacted, and von Kienlin appeals to the wider pharmaceutical industry for strategies to “tap into the potential of these groups,”: 

“You just cannot ignore 50% of the workforce. In pharma particularly, graduates in biology, medicine, and pharmacology are getting increasingly more female – so it’s a percentage that may be even higher than 50% that you cannot ignore or not develop... From an ESG perspective, you just cannot be seen to not be inclusive and give the same opportunities and chances to everyone.” 

The actionable steps von Kienlin offers centre around helping people to “shift gears” in a career:  

“I think it’s a very 80s concept to think that you start your career on day one and then you go full throttle all the way. There’s always going to be times when other things take priority and if you as an employer can’t deal with it, that’s a problem.” 

What a female perspective means for the pharma workforce 

A running theme when discussing the contributions of women to the pharmaceutical industry focus on the empathy and patience a female perspective can bring, and von Kienlin is no exception. She highlights how leadership in a social context is sometimes missing these key elements that are essential to sustaining a functioning team and company. By bringing in different perspectives and interpersonal strengths, von Kienlin highlights how companies can benefit from different experiences within their workforce. 

While she believes that the industry remains male-dominated, von Kienlin points out that women in leadership roles are not as infrequent within the pharmaceutical industry as others. However, there remain some areas of the workforce that do experience a lack of female representation, and von Kienlin addresses how increased flexibility and accommodation of commitments outside the laboratory can aid in remedying the gender imbalance. 

von Kienlin ends with two pieces of advice for women and other minority groups looking to start careers within the pharmaceutical and corporate industry: 1) Learn as much as you can before building upon what you’ve learned to make your mark, and 2) Investing in mentor relationships to help guide you through the industry. 

“It’s all about learning the ropes and learning the subject matter and the content, but also finding your own way in the organisation. Be open-minded and take things in, but also start early-on to build a network and build your own brand.” 

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Vivian Xie
Editor - Custom Content

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