January 27, 2022
Women in Leadership Series - Dairine Dempsey
Pharmaceutical executive and consultant Dairine Dempsey urges women not to second-guess their ability, stresses the importance of emotional intelligence in the workplace, and highlights the need to address the lack of female representation at a senior level.
"Women have the ability to be in these roles just as much as their male colleagues. The idea of going forward for promotion is something that I think women think about a little too much of, certainly more than men do."
SPEAKER 1: Hello, and welcome to the Totally Clinical podcast brought to you by Teckro.
Totally Clinical is a deep dive into the freshest trends, big time challenges, and most excellent triumphs of clinical trials.
I'm Hannah, your host. Join me as I chat with industry experts, trailblazers, thought leaders, and most importantly, the people benefiting from clinical research.
So tune in, settle back, and don't touch that dial. It's time to get Totally Clinical.
Today I spoke to Dorina Dempsey.
Dorina is a pharmaceutical executive who has had a busy career to date. And that's putting it mildly. She started by telling me all about it.
DORINA DEMSEY: I'm a pharmacist by primary training with the PhD, and I've been in the pharmaceutical industry for over 20 years. I started out in the industry in the regulatory authority here in Ireland working with the European Medicines Agency.
And after that, I've been with a number of different companies of varying sizes, including Icon Clinical Research organization, where I was their vise president for strategic regulatory affairs for a number of years. And following that, I was a co-founder of a company called Open Orphan in its early years pre-floating on the Euronext and aim stock exchanges in Ireland and the UK.
And since that time, I have worked as a non-executive director for Cellino Therapeutics in their European operation.
It's a small US biotech specializing in rare disease. My own area of specialization for the last 10 years or so has been orphan medicines or medicines for rare diseases. And I continue to work with Cellino today.
There is one product for the treatment of Prader-Willi syndrome, and that product has just completed its phase 3. And I'm also a non-executive director on OmniSpirant, an Irish biotech startup specializing in cell therapies for respiratory diseases, including cystic fibrosis and other rare disease.
I also operate as a consultant, and have done for the last couple of years at working with all-sized pharmaceutical companies across the industry and across geographies to try and help them at a strategic level to achieve their goals in terms of getting products on the market, maintaining products on the market, and making sure that patients have access to very critical and very important treatments that they're developing. I'm also a board member of Fighting Blindness here in Ireland, which is a patient-led charity with a strong focus on research.
SPEAKER 1: You really stand out as having had an incredibly exciting career. So you must have seen a lot over the years. What have you seen in terms of progress for women in your profession?
DORINA DEMSEY: I think the progress for women in the pharmaceutical industry has been slow as the kind of senior more executive levels. I think ultimately at the entry level and sort of mid-career level, the opportunities for men and women tend to be quite similar.
And we look at the kind of numbers of men and women coming out of the scientific educational programs, educational degrees and PhDs, that's pretty 50-50.
But when you get to the executive leadership level in the pharmaceutical industry, those levels are pretty poor.
Less than 10% of CEOs of pharmaceutical companies are women.
One in four or one in five at the executive level. So that's pretty disappointing, I think.
And we haven't seen a whole--
a great deal of progress over the years in that. So I would like to see more, I have to admit.
Since I started in the industry, we haven't seen great progress there. But slowly I think it is moving forward.
There are obviously some incentivized programs to try and promote women into those senior levels, which I think is helpful. But I do think on merit alone, women deserve to be represented at a much higher level at those levels of this industry.
SPEAKER 1: So it seems to often be the case in careers generally that it's equal at the start, and then the gap becomes bigger, higher up between the sexes.
DORINA DEMSEY: No doubt. And I think that kind of research that has been done into this does show that the levels fall off quite dramatically the more senior you get in terms of female representation, which is a real shame. I think we do see some major progress in the form of people getting into the more senior roles.
But the progress is slow and much slower than we would like. Or I think than is deserved, which I think is a significant part of this discussion. It's not just about representation. It's about the fact that women have the ability and the capability to be in these roles. And there is no doubt in my mind about that.
SPEAKER 1: If you could go back in time and give yourself advice starting your career, what would it be?
DORINA DEMSEY: I think perhaps, and this is something that I think a lot of women perhaps suffer from.
And I suppose it gets referred to in many different ways. But if I was advising myself, I would say don't second guess your ability. I think women have a tendency to be very introspective about that.
And I think sometimes referred to as imposter syndrome, where women really do feel like they don't belong in these roles. And I think that's something that I would encourage myself as a younger pharmaceutical industry professional to not do.
I have the ability, and women have the ability to be in these roles just as much as their male colleagues. The idea of going forward for promotion is something that I think women think about a little too much of certainly more than men do.
And I feel like if I was advising myself, I would say go for those roles, go for those jobs that you feel you have the ability to do, and that are part of your career progression path.
Don't overthink it.
Don't overthink it. I think it's something that perhaps women do a little more than men.
SPEAKER 1: I think a lot of women can relate to that. What would you say to women looking for a career in your profession?
DORINA DEMSEY: I would say to any woman thinking of a career in the pharmaceutical industry, go for it. It's a wonderful industry to be in. It's part of a real Renaissance of innovation and progress that's a pleasure to be part of.
And while it can be tough at times, it's certainly rewarding. While it can be challenging at times, it's always interesting. And I think for women in this industry, I think you bring an awful lot to the table in terms of your scientific ability, emotional intelligence I think is particularly important in this industry and undervalued perhaps and something that women really do bring to the table.
And so for me I think anyone thinking of a career in the pharmaceutical industry, I think it's a wonderful industry to be in.
And from a motivational point of view, the idea that you are part of a process that will bring lifesaving treatments to patients in great need is a lifelong motivator in this industry.
For me, I find working with my female colleagues extremely rewarding in the industry. And I would love for there to be more of them and more of them at senior levels.
SPEAKER 1: And that's your dose of Totally Clinical. For all the listeners out there, you can follow Teckro on Twitter, the handle @teckroofficial, LinkedIn and Facebook. And subscribe to our YouTube channel. And of course, download the Totally Clinical podcast on Apple, Spotify, and Google.
See you on your next visit. And remember to bring your friends. Thanks for listening. Goodbye.
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