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Reflecting on International Women's Day:

Candid talk in the workplace will drive real change

Candid talk in the workplace will drive real change.


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As we mark International Women's Day (IWD), you will hear a wide spectrum of views on women's progress in society. As an advocate of gender equity during my 20-year life sciences career, I am optimistic about the progress towards equality in the workplace - in large part thanks to the conversations, and greater appreciation of the issues, arising at the most senior levels of our industry. This candid dialogue is a critical step to meaningful action.

Accepting the need for change

Over the past year, there has been increased attention paid to gender issues, from Hollywood to the World Economic Forum, and the life sciences sector is no exception. In my interactions with clients, there is a genuine growing realization that diversity and inclusion - of everyone - is now a business imperative.

Leaders in the life sciences sector acknowledge that to help our industry address their most complex issues, companies must draw upon their teams with the most diverse thinking and experiences to find new approaches and better solutions.

With that in mind, it is important to attract the best, most diverse talent. To do that, it is equally important to create a working environment that is inclusive, where people can fully contribute and thrive, ultimately helping their organization succeed while feeling personally fulfilled.

I'm energized to see many participants in the life sciences sector embracing this mindset. While a quantifiable shift in key demographic indicators takes time, including female representation at each level of organizations, we should note the significant and symbolic examples of progress around us. For example, the appointment of Emma Walmsley as CEO of GlaxoSmithKline in 2017, who became the first female chief executive of a major pharmaceutical company.

Driving change across our global network

As we recognize IWD, I'm proud of the role that the KPMG global network of firms is playing in this process. Within our Life Sciences practice, we've taken steps to help women reach the top in this industry, including launching our exceptional women in life sciences program to showcase outstanding women in the profession. We aim to both inspire those at KPMG to reach their full leadership potential but to also encourage women in the broader life sciences and health care community.

Since we must constantly challenge ourselves to do more, I'm particularly pleased with our recent Global Life Sciences Jam, a 72-hour online platform with nearly 1,000 international colleagues to discuss additional ways to enhance the progression and retention of women in our practice. During this lively event, we heard honest feedback and we are now developing plans to act upon many of the innovative ideas expressed by participants.

While I'm excited about the potential for this unique global forum to help us improve our internal inclusiveness, I'm also eager to share these learnings and best practices with our clients. There is a great deal left to do as it takes time to make changes clear and make it stick. We have the most important element in our reach; the open conversations now spreading through our daily business interactions that can create understanding and genuine commitment to change.

Today as I reflect on IWD, I'm pleased that we are developing more diverse leaders to build more inclusive workplaces that inspire innovative client solutions. With widespread acceptance that inclusion and diversity is essential to our industry, the future is bright for life sciences to meet the challenges ahead and deliver real benefit and value to our people, clients and society as a whole.

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