The biopharmaceutical and broader life-sciences industries have made steady gains in the representation of women, which is making an impact on the gender gap in STEM fields.
Like the industry as a whole, this sector has seen a shift in the representation of women. At Bristol Myers Squibb’s GPS, women make up 42.8 percent of the organization’s total workforce, and 51.2 percent of the executive roles. Furthermore, 63 percent of the GPS leadership team, (a high-level group that drives the organization’s strategy and daily operations) are women, according to data from 2021.
Taking on new challenges, a strong support system and authenticity are just a part of the story behind their success. Learn more about what helped these three women on their journeys upward and what advice they have for the next generation of female professionals in the industry.
Nancy Barbour, senior vice president of Product Development (PD)
Nancy and her team are responsible for, as she describes it, “turning molecules into medicines.” Her team develops the manufacturing route and process for the drug substance, formulation and any associated delivery device, analytical characterization and testing methodology, and clinical supplies for the BMS portfolio of small molecule and biologics assets.
Nancy joined the company in 1991 with a focus on early phase development of biologics assets. She worked on numerous development programs for both biologics and small molecules, across early and late development, and as a scientific subject matter expert and matrix team leader, all as part of the PD organization. She also co-founded WIST (Women in Science and Technology), an internal network for women.
Having worked her way to where she is today is due, in large part, to timing and the wisdom of her mother.
“I’m fortunate to have grown up in an era of tremendous change and opportunity for women. My mother’s generation faced societal limitations on life and career choices, and she made it clear to her daughters and son that we could do anything, be anything that we wanted,” she said.
Her advice for young women interested in following in her footsteps has the same optimism as her mother’s, but with its own twist.
“Don’t be too concerned about the final destination….focus on the journey,” she said. “Be ready to embrace opportunities when they present themselves. And remember to pay it forward.”
Laomi Harewood, vice president of GPS Strategy and Business Excellence
Laomi began her career in clinical trial operations and eventually moved to roles in development program management and medical affairs. She came to Bristol Myers Squibb via Celgene, where she was head of Global Corporate Services, which included facilities, engineering, environmental health and safety (EHS) and security.
As head of GPS’ Strategy and Business Excellence team, Laomi is responsible for bringing together the GPS functions with aligned strategy setting, strategic execution, organizational capability building and championing a Culture of Excellence.
Her advancement has been propelled by one constant — her willingness to “take on new and different challenges,” she said. But no one gets this far alone. Laomi attributes the network of supportive managers, mentors and colleagues to the success she’s found on her career path.
Building that network is something she would strongly encourage for anyone looking to follow her same career path.
“Having a strong support network of people who understand you and your career aspirations is key,” she said. “Some may help you develop capabilities, others may help you make important connections or make hard career decisions. Find people who you can trust to give you tough feedback. It’s difficult, or maybe even impossible, to be successful without support.”
Iramis Ralat, executive director and general manager, Humacao, Internal Pharmaceutical Manufacturing
Iramis came to Bristol Myers Squibb in 2012 and moved up the ladder into her role as general manager at the Humacao Manufacturing site located in Puerto Rico, which is part of the global manufacturing operations of GPS. In this role, Iramis oversees the orchestration and optimization of all human resources, capital and material assets to supply patients with quality products and to create a competitive advantage for the company’s business.
“My role is to be an enabler, an accelerator, bringing out the best of the teams at Humacao to keep the operation moving continuously toward the next level of performance,” she said.
Her determination has been developed through hard work, openness to learn and by accepting challenges, but foundationally from a place rather unexpected — from her career as a synchronized swimmer, she said.
“Definitively, the values taught at home and my participation in sports have enabled my journey,” she said.
To young women keen to follow in her footsteps, Iramis offers two small but mighty words: own it.
“Be the protagonist of your own development, don’t wait for others to take charge; you own it!”