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By: Claire Patterson

Tonight’s bedticlaire-patterson-headshotme story with my five year old son was entitled “What We Do All Day,” a Lego book published in 2010. It featured a predominantly (83%) male cast including a workman, a fireman, a policeman, and a pilot. Sadly, scientists, of either gender, were omitted from the volume entirely. But that was 2010. Times are changing. In 2014, Lego launched a new play set—Research Institute—proposed by geoscientist Ellen Kooijman and featuring a trio of female scientists: a palaeontologist, an astronomer, and a chemist, in a move dubbed “one tiny, plastic step forward” for women in science.

As if to undo all of Lego’s good work, in 2015, Nobel Prize winner Tim Hunt was roundly criticised when he (regrettably and light heartedly, we are assured) expressed his thoughts about the “trouble with girls” in the lab, at a scientific press conference. Female scientists around the globe were united and sarcastic in their response, taking to social media to post images of themselves in their #distractinglysexy personal protective equipment (PPE).

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With jest, and mild reverse sexism aside, there is no doubt that women are achieving huge successes within the pharmaceutical industry, exemplified by the very recent appointment of Emma Walmsley as new CEO of GlaxoSmithKline (GSK). Emma will take up her new role when current CEO Andrew Witty retires in March 2017, and she will become the most powerful woman in the global pharmaceutical industry. As a mum of four, Emma openly disclosed her misgivings at being offered her first senior role at GSK: “How could a mum and wife take on something so big?…Three years later, I’m amazed how much we’ve achieved in driving change and achieving results….And I know my kids are fine with us doing our best as parents. They’re proud of their Mum and although she’s on a plane a lot, she makes as many school plays, matches and parent evenings as she can.”

Emma is amongst a host of immensely successful females within the pharma industry. But, despite the huge amount of progress made in recent years, it is acknowledged that apparent and subtle barriers remain for women to reach the highest levels in their organizations.

During the 2016 AAPS Annual Meeting and Exposition, the Women in Pharmaceutical Sciences session will be a fantastic opportunity to hear from three inspirational female leaders within our field who will candidly discuss their career trajectories. They will share successes and challenges, with real-life examples of issues such as the importance of mentors, leadership and management, communication, and confidence-building, as well as networking and team-building. The session will be followed by an opportunity for discussion in break-out sessions with the speakers: Elizabeth De Lange, Ph.D., head of Translational Pharmacology, Leiden University; Marilyn Martinez, Ph.D., senior research Scientist, U.S. FDA, and Binodh Desilva, vice president, BMS, and AAPS president-elect.

All are welcome, irrespective of gender!

Claire M. Patterson, Ph.D., M.Pharm., is an Associate Principal Scientist in Biopharmaceutics at AstraZeneca UK,  involved in linking formulation attributes to clinical performance of solid oral and complex parenteral dosage forms.