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International Women's Day 2020: An Interview with Isabel Kennedy

Posted on March 2020

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​The race is on for a gender equal workforce throughout the life sciences sector. In Germany, one third of scientists and engineers are women (33%), significantly behind the European Union average of 40%. How can we address the imbalance? Isabel Kennedy, Head of Contracts, Germany at EPM Scientific, discusses the unique position that recruiters play in furthering gender equality in the life sciences industry.

The 2020 International Women’s Day theme is that an equal world is an enabled world. What does that mean to you in the industry?

All industries create goods and services that respond to the diverse needs of its consumers. The life sciences industry is no different—all people should enjoy the highest attainable standard of health. The pharmaceuticals and medical devices we manufacturer should enable that goal. Everything that the life sciences innovates from a hip replacement, to the latest cancer therapies, to ensuring the highest hygiene standards are upheld, helps cater for a more equal world for patients, which by definition is an enabled world.

Is gender equality a topic that often comes up in conversations with candidates and companies?

Gender equality is more of a topic that comes up with companies when it is working well for them. It's a selling point and part of their employer value proposition. In the 21st century, I do find myself asking whether this should still be the case?

Often, when a client already has a diverse leadership team, it is a priority for them to sustain that level. They experience many overall benefits from having that mix in perspectives and backgrounds, including being able to make better informed decisions. So in these cases, my conversations are usually about how they can integrate the external and internal parts of their diverse talent pipeline—and how we can help further their hiring strategies.

In my experience, there are thematic threads of glass ceilings that come through the market but this is normally not seen "top-down" but "bottom-up". It would be interesting to see how many managers, leaders, and bosses are aware of whether their staff are feeling marginalized, stuck or that they can't see the route to progress—and who links this to biases facing who they are rather than their ability to perform.

What role can recruiters play in creating an equal world?

As recruiters, we have the benefit of seeing how many other organizations in a range of fields create a diverse and inclusive workplace. They set a bar and a set of standards for the industry as a whole. We can share their strategies and best practices with our clients who might be struggling.

I really agree with the time-old phrase, "If you can't see it, you can't be it." We have to make gender equality part of our daily conversations with clients and candidates. If you don't talk about it, what's the likelihood you can make any positive changes?

These issues can be awkward or uncomfortable to bring up, but we also have a duty not just to tell our clients and candidates what we think they want to hear. As consultants, we can partner with our clients to create a more equal industry. Having a long-term relationship with business facilitates long-term change, where we align our talent goals to further diversity and inclusion.

What advice would you give to a company trying to create a diverse hiring strategy?

To make healthcare products that cater for an equal world, the teams behind them must also be equal—diverse viewpoints lead to diverse discussions, problem solving and creativity.

Therefore, I would advise companies to look at their whole organisational structure and product development process. From product development and research and development through to post-production, every aspect and every point of decision-making should have an equal and diverse workforce. This will not change overnight, so I would suggest that companies take time to understand where they currently are as a business in regards to diversity—and that goes beyond gender. When you understand where there are gaps, you can invest in developing internal talent for those roles later down the road or hire into your business, depending on need. Understanding why diverse talent, such as women, exit your company is also important. Are you creating an inclusive workforce to retain that hard-earned talent? Knowing these friction points and where you stand will be important to make real change throughout the 2020s.

Knowing how to create a successful diverse hiring strategy is not a one-size fits all approach. Working with an agency, such as EPM Scientific, can help work out what success looks to your company. This is the first step to achieving it.

In my own career through developing teams, diversity has always been a big focus. Fundamentally, I have always believed that people can achieve their career goals when we create an environment that works for them. I enjoy encouraging my team to take personal ownership of their performance and career growth, while guiding them in the wider context of business. When we support different ways of working, we naturally create an inclusive workplace that fosters diverse talent.

Isabel Kennedy is the Head of Contracts, Germany for EPM Scientific. In business, as well as life, Isabel has always had a dual pronged approach. Alongside her studies and career, Isabel enjoys creating art, photography and pottery and believes this gives her a unique and creative approach to helping her clients solve their talent challenges. Recently, Isabel has relocated to Germany to further understand the European working culture. Get in touch with Isabel for advice on how to build a diverse hiring strategy.

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About us

EPM Scientific is a leading specialist recruitment agency for the Life Sciences industry. We were founded in 2012 to give companies and candidates peace of mind that the recruitment process is in experts hands. Today, we provide permanent, contract and multi-hire recruitment from our global hubs all over the world.

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