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Empowerment and Progress for Women in Science

We were honoured to attend an International Women's Day celebration at Bristol Myers Squibb (BMS), UK on 29th March 2023.

BMS is a global biopharmaceutical company committed to discovering, developing and delivering innovative medicines to patients with serious diseases. BMS has been praised for its work to improve diversity in healthcare and has been investing time and resources to achieve its goals, such as $7.9 million of health equity grants to nonprofit organisations aimed at improving access and quality care to medically underserved patients and communities (Fierce Pharma, 2022).

Their workforce is globally diverse and they strive to create an inclusive, high-performance culture that is agile, entrepreneurial and accountable, a large part of this is achieved through their Global Inclusion & Diversity work.

The Bristol Myers Squibb Network of Women (B-NOW) invited Bakare Barley Ltd MD Ayo Barley to deliver a keynote and participate in a panel discussion on empowerment and self confidence, to inspire the audience to create ripples of change to promote inclusion in the workplace.

(Left - right, Panel Chair, Vicky Wright, Helen Johnson, Ayo Barley, Sophie Thompson and Rafaela Carmona)

During the keynote, Ayo shared that building self-confidence is a crucial first step towards achieving our goals and fulfilling our potential as we navigate our complex and ever-changing world.

However, it was noted that this can be a challenging, and uphill battle for many of us, especially women and those who don't fit into the "traditional mould".

"The world we live in can be challenging for women. Some societal expectations and pressures often leave women feeling like they don't measure up. But here's the truth: our worth is not determined by anyone else's opinions. We are unique and valuable in our own right, and we should embrace our differences rather than try to fit into a mould".

She went on to share that empowering women in science is not just nice; it's essential for economic growth and social progress. Women can significantly contribute to their communities and society when they have access to education, employment opportunities, and leadership positions.

A growing body of research supports the claim that empowering women is essential for economic growth and social progress.

Here are some examples:

Why we need to do more to support women in STEM

According to a study by the McKinsey Global Institute, advancing gender equality could add $12 trillion to global GDP by 2025. The study found that increasing women's participation in labour and closing the gender pay gap could significantly impact economic growth.

In spite of the significant contributions women have made to science, their representation in many areas is still remarkably low. However, we must acknowledge the many talented and motivated women who are pursuing science careers and achieving groundbreaking results in their respective fields.

For example, Dr. Katalin Karikó, a Hungarian biochemist, played a pivotal role in developing the mRNA technology that is now being used in COVID-19 vaccines. Her work laid the foundation for the successful development of the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines, which have saved countless lives around the world. Despite facing years of rejection and scepticism, Dr. Karikó persevered and continued to push forward, demonstrating the incredible contributions that women can make in the field of science.

Despite these accomplishments, women still face formidable challenges in science, such as gender bias, the motherhood penalty, a lack of support and encouragement, and a scarcity of role models, particularly for women who's identity intersects with race, disability and sexual orientation.

The action we can all take

Ayo shared that we can all do something about it.

We must create more opportunities for women in science.

This includes providing sponsorship, mentorship and networking programs to support women navigate the obstacles they face and connect with other women in their field. We must also work towards creating more inclusive and supportive work environments that value diversity and promote equal opportunities for all.

By empowering women in science, we will not only promote gender equality but also drive scientific progress and help solve some of the world's most pressing problems.

By breaking down the barriers that prevent women from realising their full potential in science, we can create a more inclusive and supportive culture that values diversity and promotes equal opportunities for all.

Special thanks to Daisy Kenny and Katie Lau for their dedication to BNOW and their support on the day of the event.

(Left to Right, Daisy Kenny, Ayo Barley, Katie Lau)

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