Four Belgium country managers for some of the world’s largest pharma companies give their words of wisdom for women starting out in the industry.


“Focus on your strengths”

Sonja Willems, managing director for Janssen in Belgium, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg (Benelux) shares her wisdom for people building their careers in the pharma industry

Anyone setting out on a career in the pharmaceutical industry should first and foremost focus on their strengths. The best way to achieve success is to be aware of one’s strengths and understand what is most rewarding. For example, a detail-oriented person could specialize in finance, while someone more strategy-oriented could best utilize their talents by moving into management.

“An especially important piece of advice for young female talent is to be confident in oneself and believe in one’s own ability.

“Finally, it is important to take risks and embrace the unknown. When I decided to transfer to Canada, I was unaware of what I was getting into, likewise when I moved into the medical device division. It is important to take these risks and learn from any mistakes or setbacks.”


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“Stay true to yourself”

Sabena Solomon, general manager for GSK Benelux advises women looking to establish a career as a successful pharma leader to resist changing themselves into something they are not.

“My advice is not limited to women only; I think it applies to everyone. It is about staying true to yourself and not feeling like you must change to be successful. It is essential to keep in mind what your purpose is as a human being and a leader.

“I would encourage all women, or anyone aspiring to grow in their career, to have role models or mentors that they can work with, particularly in developing confidence in their leadership style and approach. Women often suffer from a lack of confidence in themselves even when others can see their value. Therefore, finding self-belief, creating a positive work-life balance, having the right mindset to challenge yourself and find opportunities will lead anyone to success.”


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“Do not hesitate to ask”

Brigitte Nolet, country manager for Roche Belgium and Luxembourg advises any women looking to follow her career path to be clear in their ambitions.

My message to women is not to be afraid – think thoroughly about what you are looking for and do not hesitate to step forward and ask. Empowerment is about not holding ourselves back and about creating opportunities where women can thrive also. The best path forward is to be clear on what you want. The moments when I truly had a significant advancement in my career were when I was absolutely clear and courageous to request what I wanted.

“I held myself back for years, thinking I would not be liked if I was too direct. It is the opposite. The clarity of intention allows for stronger mentoring and development discussions. Be courageous and clear about what you need. Therefore, it is critical to create the right corporate policies to move women through, and at the same time, ask how men and women can both be mentors to support women in achieving their ambitions.”


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“Be Proud”

Isabelle de Walsche, Gedeon Richter’s managing director for Benelux urges women starting out in the pharma industry to have no fear and take pride in their work.

“I never felt a disadvantage in being a woman. You must give a lot and sometimes balance your priorities, but I tried to find my way. The willingness to get there is important; do not be afraid to be proud of what you are doing!

“There should be more women in pharma. I strongly believe in a good mixture of genders because we have sometimes different approaches on things and richness is in the combination.”


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