Spanish pharma is performing well-above other industries in terms of the percentage of women it employs in leadership positions. Spanish-native Belén Garijo,  global CEO of Merck Healthcare since January 2015, is at the forefront of this trend, flying the flag for both Spain as a whole as well as the country’s impressive group of female leaders.


More than 40 percent of decision-makers [in Spanish pharma] are women…compared to the 12.1 percent average across the IBEX35

Javier Urzay, Farmaindustria

As Javier Urzay, deputy director of Farmaindustria, explains, in Spanish pharma, “more than 40 percent of decision-makers are women, which is high compared to the 12.1 percent average across the IBEX35 [the Spanish stock exchange – Ed.]”. Urzay continues, “Furthermore, many Spanish pharma companies have internal policies to ensure that women have the same career opportunities as their male counterparts.” Moreover, women are also making an impact at the very top of their organizations with 21.5 percent of women working in Spanish pharma holding leadership roles compared to the IBEX35 average of 5.9 percent


Additionally, according to the same 2017 study undertaken by Farmaindustria, women make up 52 percent of the 40,500 directly employed staff within the pharmaceutical industry, while in the R&D space they make up 64 percent of all employees.


Prominent individuals within Spanish pharma such as Marieta Jimenez, general manager of Merck Spain, have been leading the charge for greater equality across all industries. Jimenez’s ‘Closingap’ campaign, “is a cluster of eight leading companies – Merck, BMW Group, Repsol, Vodafone, MAPFRE, Mahou San Miguel Solán de Cabras, Meliá Hotels International and L’Oréal – all working to transform the situation for women in Spain,” she explains. “If we can demonstrate that there is a gap in the different sectors and can prove the contribution that women can make to positive economic growth, this will be the best way to help equality in the workplace. With 500,000 Spanish employees within the eight companies, we have the ability to put in place our own initiatives, but most importantly, we must use our data to discuss at the governmental level what changes should be made for greater women’s equality.”


More on this study can be found here:


Prominent Women in Spanish Healthcare and Life Sciences


Cristina Garmendia, president, Cotec Foundation and former minister of science and innovation

“When I took over the position of Minister of Science and Innovation in 2008, the main issue faced by the Spanish scientific sector was that the law ruling the system was from 1986, which was outdated and too old to really allow any substantial growth. The biggest challenge at that moment was to put in place a new law while being in a parliamentary minority, nevertheless, we were able to do this”.

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Aurora Berra, general manager, Sobi Spain and Portugal

“Women at times can lack self-confidence, maybe due to the fact there are not as many reference points compared to men. Men’s self-belief is generally quite high as they have always had reference points and an overall belief that if they work hard enough, they can reach their goals. Nevertheless, things are improving, and some women are flying the flag as we can see in many examples especially in the pharma sector through some of the GMs in our country. This shows that hard work does pay off and really, anything can happen if you are dedicated to your goals. I encourage young women to truly believe that it is possible to achieve what they want.”

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Maria Vila, regional VP, Medtronic Spain and Portugal

“If someone offers you a good position which is a good step within your career, take the opportunity and do not think that just because you do not possess all of the skills listed that you are unprepared. This is a problem I have seen in many women and I have encountered that problem in the past. If there are ten skills needed for a job, and you have seven of them, women should step up to the challenge and take the risk. Do not believe that the men who take the job are as prepared. In reality, these men possess the same skills and are just willing to take that leap of faith”.

Click here to read the full interview