International Women’s Day: AusBiotech ‘moving the dial’ on gender equity


In celebration of International Women’s Day, AusBiotech is offering practical and tangible opportunities to support gender equity of life sciences and supporting emerging female leaders via the ‘Big Sisters/Little Sisters’ programme and the ‘Women in Life Sciences (WILS) Luncheon’ in Sydney this week.

International Women's Day is annually held on March 8 to “celebrate women's achievements throughout history and across nations”, and AusBiotech is ‘moving the dial’ for emerging sector leaders during its sell-out WILS Luncheon, co-hosted by AusBiotech and Medicines Australia.

The 2022 Luncheon will focus on ‘amplifying her voice’, uniting almost 500 delegates. Whether it’s in healthcare, politics, workplaces, relationships, boardrooms or life sciences, the voice of women is gaining significant traction. Since the last Women’s Luncheon, when the ‘Me Too’ movement had acted as a global lightning rod for women’s inequality, the past year has seen a reckoning for Australian women and the voice of many, thankfully, come to the fore.

Profiling Executives, Founders, and leaders that span bench to bedside, the Luncheon also offers a tangible and practical way that leaders in the life sciences can provide support and encouragement to women in the early stages of their career via the ‘Big Sisters/Little Sisters’ programme.

The programme invites women advanced in their careers in the sector to sponsor a student to attend the event, meet their network during the Luncheon, and receive an annual AusBiotech membership.

The quality of applications was excellent and comments from ‘Little Sister’ applicants showed enormous vision and commitment to the area.

One Little Sister said, “As a woman in STEM, I stand on the shoulders of giants. I want to become an exemplar role model for young girls who are considering a career in STEM. To show that we are important to the industry and we can make an impact. Even from the short time since I undertook my undergraduate degree in engineering, we have taken great strides towards diversity and equity.”

Another emerging leader noted, “Life sciences is key to understanding the world around us and creating equitable, sustainable and innovative solutions to the problems that we face... I am a young adult with hopefully many years ahead and I want a better future not just for me, but also for generations that come long after I'm gone. We cannot continue as we have, and novel solutions must be found to ensure the longevity of life on earth.”

AusBiotech’s Sector Snapshot 2022 report, to be launched later this month, has found that women form 51 per cent of the workforce across the life sciences sector, retaining consistent equality since 2017 (50 per cent).

Female representation in senior positions (executive, board, CEO/founder), however, was mostly under 50 per cent across the sector - except in government and regulatory organisations and support services. Inequality as seniority increases is well recognised, and it was pleasing to see the ‘dial’ shifting in some areas, with an increase in the percentage of women in life sciences board positions overall (35 per cent) and within industry (17 per cent), when compared to 2019 (31 and 15 per cent respectively).

This year's WILS Luncheon speaking programme includes keynote Nirelle Tolstoshev, Managing Director, Organon ANZ - the largest biopharmaceutical company dedicated to women’s health, and a panel of leaders to discuss the importance of ‘voice’ and how we can amplify that of women in Australian life sciences. Our speakers will share their experiences throughout their careers and discuss the ways they have amplified women's voices in their respective workplaces.

Panellists include:

  • Anne Harris, Managing Director, Pfizer Australia;
  • Alison Todd, Co-Founder & Chief Scientific Officer, SpeeDx;
  • Chris Stemple, Vice President & General Manager, Abbvie ANZ;
  • Dr Samantha Wade, NSW Young Woman of the Year 2022, Associate Research Fellow, University of Wollongong;
  • Dr Clara Tuck Meng Soo, Public Health Advocate & Practice Principal, Hobart Place General Practice & East Canberra General Practice; and,
  • Fiona Clark, General Manager, Sanofi, Australia and New Zealand.

Read more about the ‘Big Sisters/Little Sisters’ programme, the sell-out event and our esteemed speakers here.