International Women’s Day 2019 gave us an ideal opportunity to connect with a number of the expert women working in leading roles in life-sciences and innovation here at the Babraham Research Campus. In addition, we also had the chance to speak to a few of the women in more detail, one of whom is Jackie Hunter, Chief Executive Clinical Programmes and Strategic Partnerships at Benevolent AI. Jackie talked to us about how she feels organisation culture has changed over the last decade, who inspires her and what she believes are the biggest challenges for the next generation of women scientists.
Read on to find out more.
Jackie is Chief Executive Clinical Programmes & Strategic Partnerships at Benevolent AI, a UK unicorn company that uses AI to disrupt the drug discovery and development process. She has held numerous senior leadership positions in the pharma, biotech and innovation industries, including GSK, Proximagen and OI Pharma Partners, which she founded in 2010. She was also CEO at the BBSRC between 2013 and 2016. For her services to the pharmaceutical industry, she was awarded a CBE in 2010 Birthday Honours and the 2010 Women of Achievement in Science, Engineering and Technology Award for Discovery, Innovation and Entrepreneurship.
1. What was organisational culture like 10 years ago for women? How do you feel it’s changed over the last decade?
The overt sexism has become less common and companies are looking at diversity in its broadest sense which has benefits for gender diversity as well as other protected characteristics. However there is still a large degree of unconscious bias in many organisations which means that women may be disadvantaged. For example lack of sponsorship for new roles or opportunities, lack of appreciation of different behavioural and managerial styles, timing of meetings for those with care responsibilities etc. It is important that both men and women are involved in developing the solutions to this and own the agenda – both men and women need to be open to diverse views and ways of doing things – this increases innovation, builds resilience in individuals and organisations and allows access to the best talent wherever it lies.
2. What woman particularly inspires you and why?
There have been many women who have inspired me so its hard to pick any one. People like Susan Iversen (MSD and Oxford) and Janet Dewdney (SmithklineBeecham) showed me that women could attain senior positions in the pharmaceutical industry. Earlier on my biology teacher, Katherine Ludbrook, had faith in me and inspired me to be the first in my family to go to university.
3. What will be the biggest challenge for the next generation of women scientists?
The biggest challenge will be ensuring access to equal opportunities (and pay) and ensuring the support of their male colleagues in calling out inequalities (for men and women) and driving this agenda forward. Recent research in Nature (2019) showed that small teams produce the most disruptive research but small teams are even more dependent on accessing the talents of all team members and working together collaboratively – this is both a challenge and an opportunity for female scientists.
To find out more about some of the other inspirational women working at the Babraham Research Campus, click here. This is by no means an exhaustive list but it does give a flavour of the experienced, knowledgeable and innovative women working within the commercial companies, the Babraham Institute and the Campus Management Team, all of which combine to create our unique community.
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