Women in Pharma: A path-breaking initiative to close in on the gender gap in the burgeoning sector

An exclusive summit by UBM India under the aegis of the India Pharma Week

The 2nd edition of the celebrated India Pharma Week, a UBM India initiative — introduced last year to celebrate a decade of CPhI & P-MEC, UBM’s flagship engagement platform, and the world’s leading Pharmaceutical networking event — witnessed one of its most inspiring and scintillating initiatives, ‘Women in Pharma : Aspire, Lead, Inspire’.


The event saw a congregation of some of the most sought-after women leaders in senior-management levels, entrepreneurs, and mentors from the pharmaceutical and bio-pharmaceutical industry to celebrate the significant contribution of women in this industry and share their inspiring stories, experiences and knowledge. Encouraged by the overwhelming response it got last year, the 2nd edition of ‘Women in Pharma’ came with a broader, all-encompassing agenda that also included deliberating discussions by involving senior male leaders from the industry as well. Women in Pharma  promoted an ambience of bonhomie, sympathy, inspiration and strength by means of the different forms the discussions took place in: interactive panel discussions, open Q&A forums, fireside chats, networking sessions and bonding over breakfast and lunch.

With several global studies pointing to the fact that gender diversity reaps greater financial results, organizations are now increasingly channelizing their efforts towards building a gender rich workforce, with a special focus on women in leadership roles.  As per a global report by Grant Thornton, ‘India ranks third lowest in having women in leadership roles’. The percentage of women executive directors in the pharmaceutical industry is only 7.69%. However, with the latest SEBI guidelines on board representation along with an increasing number of women inspired to make a difference, these figures are slowly changing.

A number of intellectually stimulating discussions dotted the summit with a pulse on practical solutions. The presence of Marina Wyatt, CFO, UBM plc , the London-headquartered parent organisation of UBM India, added to the prestige of the show. Wyatt spoke on the subject of Women in Boardrooms: Empowered Women, Empowered Businesses’. Some of the other topics at the event comprised, but were not limited to: How Great Women Lead; Leadership Diversity; Strategies for Strengthening the C+ club; and Breaking the status-quo: Evolving role of women in leadership. With leadership styles having evolved from an autocratic and directive leadership to a more participative, mentoring style as a backdrop, the interactions centred around the subject of the evolving role of women leadership in organizations and their quest to inspire and increase their tribe.

Some of the best-in-class professionals of the industry who were a part of the by-invitation only interaction included Sindhushree Khullar, former Chief Executive Officer, NITI Aayog, Former Secretary-Planning Commission, Government of India; Savindu Kudrigikar, Business Head (South Asia), Pharma, Food and Medical, Dow Chemical International Pvt. Ltd.; Aparna Thomas, Senior Director – Communications & CSR (India & South Asia), Sanofi; Deepshikha Mukerji, Regional Human Resources Director, Established Pharmaceuticals, Abbott;Pratima Reddy, Director – R&D Portfolio, Governance and Strategy Merck Consumer Health (CH), Merck; Rajiv Oza, HRBL – Global Manufacturing & Supply (GMS) , South Asia, GlaxoSmithKline Pharmaceuticals Ltd.; Dr. Sofia Mumtaz, President-Portfolio and Legal, Lupin Ltd.; Ameera Shah, Promoter & Managing Director, Metropolis Healthcare Ltd.; and Kanchana TK, Director General, Organisation of Pharmaceutical Producers of India along with an inspirational talk by Vasu Primlani, Corporate trainer and stand-up comedian.

Speaking on the occasion of ‘Women in Pharma:Aspire, Lead, Inspire’, Mr. Yogesh Mudras, Managing Director, UBM India said, “Diversity and inclusion, especially gender diversity is a granted principle in the workplace today, but unfortunately still not well-executed. Given the upsurge in the pharmaceutical sector in India with over 25,000 companies, there is a tremendous potential for jobs for women in leadership positions and otherwise. However, according to the Skill India Report, while the industry-wise hiring targets for women in pharma and healthcare sectors currently is about 38.67 per cent, the total employability of women is only about 28.28 per cent.”

He added, “At UBM India, we support gender diversity, as it helps enhance the character of a workplace as much as its business — hence our endeavour in the form of Women in Pharma. We believe that organizations benefit tremendously from the varied creative ideas, industry knowledge, resources and in-depth insights that each gender brings to the table. In spite of the obvious benefits, most sectors are failing to hire, retain and promote qualified women. What would make a vital difference then would be to spread awareness, education and a can-do attitude. It is for women leaders – and their male counterparts – to share their experiences as well as encourage and inspire other women to take the lead and a platform like Women in Pharma provides just that.” 

Marina Wyatt, CFO, UBM plc, observed: “The issue of gender sensitisation and diversity at the workplace is no longer about ‘why’, but about ‘how’ — how we get the systems and structure in place to drive the same.Similarly, it’s not as much about work-life balance nowadays in the digital world, as much as it is about work-life blend and the opportunity to do so — where one can seamlessly transition from one to the other, where the personal and professional may merge and enhance each other. Worldwide, at UBM, we are keen to have our teams collect data on gender diversity, see how business benefits from it,  create initiatives such as empowerment sessions like this forum on Women in Pharma. We’ve had similar platforms in other parts of the world such as Women in Engineering, Women in Cruise, Women in Technology etc.

She added, “What we are noticing is this ‘pipeline’ where at the entry level, there is not much of a gap, but gradually, as the seniority level increases, so does the gender gap. At UBM plc, we are getting more proactive on the gender issue from the grass-root level and some of the key themes we are focusing on is ‘recruitment’, ‘development’ and ‘compensation’ and, linking it to the concerned teams’ KPIs.

My advice to all women is take chances, and not cut yourself out.  Strive to work out of your comfort zone and find a mentor, who gives you a broader overview and champions your case. Enjoy what  you are doing, be a learner, move jobs for an informed reason and ensure the culture of the organisation always suits you. “

An attractive platter of more than 10 trend setting events, The India Pharma Week was introduced last year to mark a decade’s existence of CPhI and P-MEC. Focusing on the pillars of business, knowledge, leadership, innovation, recognition and networking in the pharma domain, the IPW included the CphI & P-MEC expos at the Bombay Exhibition Center (BEC) and the MMRDA Grounds, Bandra Kurla Complex (BKC), a Pre-Connect Congress; Women in Pharma ; the India Pharma Awards; Networking Evening; Plant Visit and Pharma Leaders’ Golf; along with the closed door CEO Round Table. The IPW transformed the CPhI& P-MEC exhibition from a wall-bound show to one with considerable intellectual value addition.

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