Women in Discovery: championing female leaders across drug discovery

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Jessica Woodgate and Molly Edwards head up the drug discovery and development space at SciPro, life sciences recruitment. They are also the founders of the Women in Discovery’ round table. 

“SciPro is a specialist life sciences recruitment organisation covering the market from bench to bedside, working from preclinical drug discovery and development to commercialisation and post-marketing, including everything in between,” says Molly Edwards. 

Taking inspiration from SciPro’s ‘Discovery Leaders’ round table previously hosted by Ed Bevans, the pair created ‘Women in Discovery’, a quarterly round table behind the ‘virtual doors’ of Zoom. “This environment allows our guest –  no more than 20 female individuals – to speak freely and openly about their perspectives and experiences,” Edwards explains. Previous topics have touched upon career progression, personal growth, mentorship, and management. 

Our stamp on the industry 

“The life sciences industry remains male dominated,” says Woodgate. “However, women are continuing to climb the drug discovery ladder, creating a female voice across the space. We felt it was important to provide a new avenue for female pioneers to come together – we speak to many who are keen to continue the conversation that others before them have started.” 

An introduction to women in discovery 

“The first session remained introductory,” says Woodgate. “However, the atmosphere was warm and inviting. We discussed progression and explored individuals’ different paths. Given that the first event took place at a time when Europe was on the verge of (yet another) lockdown, we managed to steer well clear of any Covid related discussions!” 

Education to mentorship to management 

“A common theme within the first session was mentorship,” explains Edwards. “We decided to make this the core focus of session two. Tracking the transition from education or academia into industry, and subsequently within industry from mentor to manager, our guests were transparent about how their organisations provided mentorship opportunities or suggested external programmes. An interesting discovery we made (no pun intended…) was how on occasion the difference in experience correlated with size and scope of organisation.” 

Women’s step into management 

Session three took a new direction. “We invited those looking to take the plunge into management to join the table,” Woodgate explains. “Incorporating a split session really opened the conversation further, allowing everyone to gain an understanding of how the industry has shifted over time.”  

Edwards add: “We heard from individuals who have been in management for over 20 years providing support and guidance to those for whom management is their ideal next step to develop both professionally and personally. One of our participants, Morana Vitezic, revealed the reason she wanted to join the Women in Discovery Round Table was to be able to share her experiences with peers, to hear their thoughts, and feedback on topics of common interest. It has been useful to understand female leaders’ perception and share ideas and advice.” 

Upcoming event: Women and men, similarities and differences? 

“For the next roundtable we thought it was time to open the conversation further so we’ve invited a handful of men to join our August discussions. We’re excited to celebrate the similarities and successes the industry is making and to identify areas within which the experience of men and women differs,” says Woodgate. 

For people with purpose 

Woodgate and Edwards say that purpose has always been the heart of their work.  

“Through the concept of purpose, we’ve moulded the round table into a conversational community within which guests are happy to share specific experiences, thoughts, and opinions on either current day obstacles or indeed future hurdle,” reveals Edwards. “Both before and after each event we meet virtually (in person where possible) with each attendee to understand their thoughts on the themes discussed. We’ve found this to be a great way to plan and execute future round tables.” 

What does the future hold? 

Edwards and Woodgate are keen to welcome new guests to their community. The next event is due to take place on Wednesday 17 August at 15.00 BST by Zoom. 

What they said 

Guest from session three, Celine Kowalska: “Molly and Jessica have put in place a forum where female leaders or more junior members can express freely the challenges they’ve had or can experience. This allows to share tips and experience but also the strengths of female leaders. The questions discussed always led to rich conversations that we could carry on for much longer. I am already looking forward to the next sessions.”

Guest from session two, Müge Ogrunc: “The Women in Discovery Roundtable provides a warm ambiance where I felt that we created a bridge and inspired each other.” 

Volume 23 – Issue 3, Summer 2022

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