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Mary Canady is the founder Comprendia which provides marketing and social media consulting services to the life science and biotech industry. Additionally, she began the San Diego Biotechnology Network to help life science researchers and professionals connect online and at monthly networking events. Mary also serves as a liaison between life science companies and the science blogging community, and she can be found on Twitter at @comprendia.
There is an ongoing, fascinating discussion in the science blogosphere about women in science, covering such topics as being a mom as a scientist (including Jade’s post which prompted me to write this one), women scienceblogging, and the ever present salary inequality discussions. To contribute to these conversations constructively, I’d like to list the best advice I’ve received as a woman in biotech. Since getting my Ph.D. in biochemistry, and moving into ‘industry’ about ten years ago, I’ve gotten great advice and also learned a lot. These recommendations can also be used by those with a science background in general, as qualities such as self-denigration are common and may be perpetuated by the culture of higher education.
I hope this post will help you to face the biotech work environment in a way that helps you to succeed. I’m just one person, I’m sure you’ve got some great insights and advice, please share!
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These aren't just great tips for women, but I think men can benefit from this list too. Thanks for the insightful post, Mary!
Thanks Mary! This is really helpful. Delegation is really an area where I need to improve. And trusting others to do as good a job as I would....or at least stop caring so much about everything being perfect and "my way".
In my experience, in academia, the women were much harder on me over men. In biotech, I've not seen the same level of competitiveness between women. It's definitely been a more supportive environment.
Thanks Jade! Yes delegating is my achilles heel...just this morning I was troubleshooting errors in one of the websites we maintain myself. I provide this list for my own reference as well!
Interesting about women being harder on each other in academia, I can see that. Do you sometimes get discouraged at how few women speakers there are at biotech/pharma conferences?
Great post Mary . As others have said here and on twitter, this is all good advice even outside of biotech. I especially like the mentoring others point, and think its important to add to never burn bridges with former mentors. Even if you've long left their lab or group, you never know when they might be useful to you so stay in touch. Many of the recent trainees and techs (say past 5yrs or so) from my group continue to send small Christmas presents to the lab/our PI (like a basket of chocolate and card with a photo of their family or something like that) just to say thanks...nice tradition. And on the other side, mentoring others can be an educational experience for you too - you really have to understand something well to explain it to others.
I would say that I notice how few women there are. I also notice how many women a company has working at their trade show booth.
I was involved in a project where I had to line up experts on a subject for a series and of course I was conscious of making sure I had women involved so I asked the top women in the field to participate. All declined the invitation (with exception of one). So I ended up having a line up of 11 people with only one woman. But not because I didn't try.
Most of the reasons for saying no were that they were too busy- too many trainees in the lab to oversee or grant deadlines. The men I asked were keen to be involved in the project and fit it in despite whatever they had going on. I am sure they had the same higher priority committments.
So sometimes when I get annoyed that there are no women in the schedule or on the agenda, I think of that and how I went through the same thing. Maybe the organizers tried and everyone said no? Sometimes you have to take what you can get.
Are women getting better at setting boundries and prioritizing their time? Maybe. And since there are so few in comparison to men in the upper tier, it can be hard to get them to commit to extra activities that do not have a major impact on their career.
When I see a trade show booth with all men and no women- and not the small ones with 2 staff, but I've seen boths staffed with 6-10 people and all men, then I think, that company is not female friendly.
They don't have a single woman on the marketing or sales staff? Something is wrong.