PharmaBoardroom’s Top Women Leaders 2020


While great strides in gender diversity has been made within healthcare boardrooms and leadership teams globally, as well as more generally across the workplace and many other arenas in many countries, at times we are served a stark reminder that the fight for greater gender equality and women representation is far from over. Perhaps the most recent one came in the form of a condescending and misleading Wall Street Journal opinion piece exhorting Dr Jill Biden, spouse of US President-elect Joe Biden, to drop the ‘Dr’ honorific simply because she has a Doctor of Education instead of a medical degree.


This came, rather sadly, just two months after a tremendous triumph for women in science, when the Nobel Prize in Chemistry was jointly awarded to two distinguished women scientists and researchers, Dr Emmanuelle Charpentier and Dr Jennifer Doudna, for the discovery of the CRISPR genome editing technology. However, even Dr Charpentier’s and Dr Doudna’s stunning academic and scientific careers have been marred by a billion-dollar patent battle with another group, who wanted to claim credit for the discovery of CRISPR technology. The group has been accused of behaving like an ‘old boys club’ with attempts made to underplay and erase the seminal and pioneering contributions both Dr Charpentier and Dr Doudna have made to this field.

Within the global pharmaceutical industry, women still make up under 30 percent of executive directors at top firms. Only a handful of the world’s largest pharmaceutical companies – notably GSK, Mylan and Biocon – currently have female CEOs. Advocates for more gender equity point to compelling financial reasons. In a 2018 study, it was found that companies in the UK’s FTSE 350 index with no women on their executive committees achieved an average of 8.9 percent net profit margin but those with at least 25 percent women executive representation managed to achieve an average of 13.9 percent. The same report also found, positively, that pharma companies had a higher representation of women on executive committees than the FTSE 350 average.

In addition, gender equity matters in R&D as well, since many diseases only or disproportionately affect women yet investment in women health has historically been low. The US FDA has also highlighted the need for better gender balance in clinical trials since as far back as 1992.

PharmaBoardroom – led as well by a female CEO – has always been a strong advocate of gender equity and diversity within the workplace. As 2020 comes to a close, we are proud to showcase the following outstanding women leaders that we have had the pleasure to interview and work with in the past 12 months, and we hope to profile much more of the important work accomplished by women executives, scientists and leaders in the new year.


Ramona Sequeira, President, Takeda Pharmaceuticals USA; President, Global Portfolio Commercialization; Member of Takeda Global Executive Team

As well as heading up Japanese giant Takeda’s US affiliate, Ramona Sequiera is also president for global portfolio commercialisation and sits on the company’s global executive team.


My leadership teams and I have focused on building a culture based on trust and openness – and we understand that it starts with us


She outlined the responsibilities of managing Takeda’s largest affiliate outside of Japan, the integration of the Shire portfolio to Takeda’s US operations, why “to be effective it’s important to work differently, not just do more,” and how Takeda today “views culture as a strategy because while other business strategies can easily be replicated, culture cannot.”

Read the full interview here


Etleva (Eva) Kadilli, Director (Supply Division), UNICEF

Director of UNICEF’s supply division, Eva Kadilli is responsible for leading the organisation’s strategic procurement and logistics emergency response to the COVID-19 pandemic and represents UNICEF on the UN COVID Supply Chain Task Force.


Ultimately, the most important aspect of our response has been the fact that we have extensive experience working in emergencies and we have boots on the ground, staff who know the local context extremely well and are able to undertake risk management


She highlighted how UNICEF is the world’s largest single buyer of vaccines, purchasing around 2.4 billion doses every year, how the organisation’s biggest challenge is “that while responding to the immediate crisis caused by the global pandemic, we still needed to continue and coordinate our responses to other emergencies,” and how “The only way we can overcome this global pandemic successfully is if everyone – government, private sector and civil society – come together. Solidarity is necessary, first and foremost. No one will be safe until everyone is safe.”

Read the full interview here


Joan Shen, CEO, I-Mab Biopharma

As CEO of I-Mab Biopharma, Joan Shen leads one of China’s most important biotechs, listed on NASDAQ since January 2020.


We believe that China will move quickly out of the ‘me too’ and ‘me better’ modes of innovation. This means companies will need to collaborate with more academic institutions – in China and globally – to enhance their innovative capabilities


Shen told PharmaBoardroom about her diverse career progression including five years as a psychiatrist, stints at Pfizer and Janssen, as well as Chinese pharma company Jiangsu Hengrui and why “the Chinese pharma company of the future should not be a copy-and-paste version of either a multinational or domestic pharma company. We need to integrate elements from both models to build a better and more innovative company at its core.” She also touched on the challenges of being a female leader in China and why, “regardless of gender or nationality or other factors, what connects people are things like a passion for science, humility, patience, open-minded and the willingness to collaborate.”

Read the full interview here


Maggie De Block, Minister of Social Affairs, Public Health and Asylum & Migration, Belgium (2014-2020)

Former Belgian Minister of Social Affairs, Public Health and Asylum & Migration Maggie de Block outlined some of the key reforms her Ministry has rolled out since she took office in 2014.


Belgium has an enormous wealth of digital data: general data, data about reimbursements, genetic databanks, diagnostic data and so on. The possibilities and ideas exist to become a new “mining” country. Unfortunately, all the data is very decentralized. If we could combine all this data, we could find new solutions and improve current ones


De Block also touched on the urgent changes to Belgian healthcare that still need to take place.

Read the full interview here


Teresa Rodó, EVP, Head of Global Healthcare Operations, Merck

Teresa Rodó gave an overview of her role overseeing the development, manufacturing, supply, and quality of all of Merck’s biotech and pharmaceutical medicines and medical devices. 


When the already-high levels of motivation and engagement among our employees were combined with the additional sense of purpose and urgency that COVID-19 has brought, our employees have been able to do amazing things


Rodó also explained how the company has been able to withstand the supply chain challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, and why Merck is at the forefront of supply chain sustainability and the integration of cutting-edge digital tools.

Read the full interview here


Ana Hidalgo-Simon, Head of Advanced Therapies, European Medicines Agency

The EMA’s Head of Advanced Therapies Dr Ana Hidalgo-Simon outlines Europe’s evolving regulatory framework for regenerative medicines. 


For advanced therapies, market approval is not the end of the journey, and we really want to reach the final destination, which is having patients benefit from these therapies. Access is fundamental


Hidalgo-Simon also looked at how Europe’s regulatory framework differs from those in the USA and Asia, ethical and pricing challenges, and why global regulatory harmonization and collaboration is crucial.

Read the full interview here


Veronique Walsh, General Manager, Bristol Myers Squibb Benelux

Veronique Walsh of BMS Benelux explainsedher ambition to build a new company culture following the acquisition of Celgene.


We want to combine the agility of a biotech with the experience of a Big Pharma company


Walsh also laid bare the prospects for bringing innovation to Belgian patients and explains how BMS continues to deliver on its promise of transforming lives through science amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.

Read the full interview here

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