August 25, 2014
I don't consider myself a feminist.
In fact, during my 25+ year diagnostics career, I've had the support of both male and female mentors and have been incredibly appreciative of the guidance I have received from both. At the beginning of my career, as a young Quality Manager, I was mentored by an amazing Director of Regulatory Affairs, Elaine Walton. With her encouragement and support, I took chances, despite my fear. Next Ellen Norquist, a National Sales Director, placed her trust in my abilities (despite my lack of experience), propelling me into the world of sales. Later, in my role as a U.S. Director of Marketing, Doug Sweet, Vice President of Marketing, mentored me. These men and women helped to lift me up and encourage me to reach for my goals. However, despite the support and encouragement, I couldn't shake the feeling of insecurity when faced with a new challenge.
By my late thirties, I began to observe bright capable women leaving the corporate ranks. Increasingly, I was the only woman sitting at the table when key decisions were being made. After founding Market Ready Rx in 2006, I continue to find myself as the only woman in the room with my clients.
I've also notice women's reluctance to lead outside of my profession. During my 2009 presidency of the Junior League of Santa Barbara, CA (a women's training organization in voluntarism and leadership), I observed bright, capable women holding themselves back, fearful of taking on a leadership role. It was as if they needed a certainty against failure. This has puzzled me and prompted the question, "Why aren't women stepping up to leadership?"
I have come to learn that there are a number of reasons why this might be the case:
- Women are outnumbered by men. This provides less company in the boardroom, limited support, and fewer role models. A March 2013 San Francisco Business Times article cited that only three of Fierce Biotech's 25 most influential people were women.
- Both men and women prefer to work for men. According to the Daily Beast site in a 1953 Gallup poll, two thirds of Americans preferred a male boss if they had a choice in a new job. In November 2013, most didn't have a preference, but those who did, preferred a female boss by 35%.
- Quality of Life. Women have more options today. Despite this, fewer women choose to lead, especially among millennials who prefer stability and family balance to the stress of corporate politicking.
The Lean In Challenge
You are the company you keep. For women inspired to lead, begin to build a support team of women you respect and would love to work with and for. Too often we build a cadre of male supporters. Don't forget to align yourself with women as well.
Women "rockin' it" in Diagnostics. Get to them and find a model which works for you:
- Bonnie Anderson – President & CEO of Veracyte. Per San Francisco Business News in July 2014, Veracyte is one of two life science companies who went public in the past two years with female CEOs.
- Kimberly Popovits – CEO and President of Genomic Health. She was previously COO for GHI and held various Genentech positions prior to founding GHI.
- Mya Thomae – CEO of MyRAQA Inc., recently acquired by Illumina. She has also provided expertise and strategic direction on FDA and EU medical device decisions.
How to get started? Cheryl Sandberg (author of Lean In) tells us that by the time we graduate from college, more men than women see themselves as leaders. It's not about NOT being afraid but instead about feeling the fear and letting it empower you.
So take the plunge and say "yes" to leadership!
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