Engineering Equality in Life Sciences

March 11, 2020 10:30 am | Posted by Sheila Cotter

Gloria Gadea-Lopez ESP

The first International Women’s Day (IWD) gathering occurred over 100 years ago in 1911. By 2025, Accenture have set a bold goal to achieve a gender-balanced workforce – this means a workforce that is equally 50% women and 50% men for those whose gender is binary. This year, to celebrate IWD, we caught up with our own Gloria Gadea-Lopez, Ph.D. who is a Senior Consultant with ESP – Part of Accenture X.0 in North America since August 2018. Prior to that, Gloria worked in Shire as Director of Production and Business Systems. This interview explores Gloria’s background as well as her thoughts on women in engineering along with key advice she believes is important for those choosing a career in this sector.

Why did you choose Engineering and Life Sciences?

“When we ask Chemical Engineering students why they want to enter this field, the typical answer is ‘because in High-School I liked Math and Chemistry’. I can say that this is the exact rationale I used to decide what to study in college. I completed my bachelor’s degree in Chemical Engineering at the University of Costa Rica, following a U.S. engineering program, using English language textbooks.

My first job was in a lab at Gulf Oil Company, but soon after, I realized that my interest was really in exploring biological sciences. I always had a curiosity about how engineering principles apply to materials that are alive, in a constant state of change. So, when I had the opportunity to pursue graduate studies, I decided to use this time to expand beyond the traditional, “petrochemical-based” chemical engineering degree and study for a Master’s in Food Science and Technology at Oklahoma State University. My plan at that time was to work in research at the school’s Noble Research Center while my husband completed his Ph.D. But life had better plans and a Professor invited me to, instead, enroll as a PhD student in Biosystems Engineering. Looking back, I consider this a turning point in my life because I can look back at that moment and appreciate the learnings and life experiences that came up from that offer and from my decision to accept it.  Digital Technology was a component of my Ph.D. work. During this time, I was offered an internship at a technology company in Process Modelling and Simulation company in Cambridge, Massachusetts. After I graduated with my doctorate degree, I started working at Genzyme (now part of Sanofi) on process modelling and data analytics.”

How did you choose your role?

“Working in Life Sciences, I gradually progressed my career at Genzyme and later at Shire (Takeda) continuing to advance and later became a member of the leadership team at the Massachusetts site. Consulting appealed to me as I thought it was interesting to learn how other companies approached operational technology problems. Working with experienced teams and bringing our collective knowledge to customers appealed to me. I enjoyed the idea of working with companies who are starting their digital transformation journeys and this was the reason I joined ESP; I wanted to build from the lessons learned from my previous jobs and work with people who are experts in the field and to support companies. The reality of the process and how digital technologies support operations in the real world is a key area of interest to me.”

Do you believe there is gender inequality in this sector?

“Yes. There is gender inequality in Engineering and Technology, but this varies by industry sector and geographies. Based on my own experiences, I think Life Sciences have a more open-minded, fair environment than other fields.

There are still negative stereotypes and bias that results from inaccurate, incomplete perceptions. Life Sciences companies tend to be more progressive in their thinking and more open to women in positions of leadership. For example, there are biotech companies that have 55% of women, in high-level positions but more work is needed.”

Why is it important for women to take up Engineering?

“Engineering is a field where you bring practical solutions and tangible results to the world. It is very fulfilling and brings me a lot of joy to see the ideas we are implementing are solving problems. I think this is for women and men who are interested in this sector – not just women.”

What advice would you give to a woman who would like to start a career in Engineering?

“Demonstrate excellence, I think we earn our positions on our dedication, our professionalism and our knowledge, so pursue these traits. Develop good interpersonal relations and skills. Learn to communicate and express your opinions and ideas well.”

Do you believe there are equal opportunities in the industry for women?

“There is significant progress being made addressing inequality in the Life Sciences industry. I know many women who are in leadership positions. I held a leadership role previously and the team were almost 50/50 women and men, and this was not necessarily by design. I reported to the SVP of Manufacturing and his vision was to have people who were extremely competent in their fields of work. He did not care about gender, ethnicity, age, etc. Intelligent leaders will appreciate people for what they bring to the team. What really matters is the knowledge that you bring to the table.

Earlier in my career, there were challenges working in a process engineering factory as some people were old fashioned in their approach and were not open-minded to see process engineers to be women.  By the way, this did not bother me, but I could see it bothered them. I enjoyed watching their ‘structures of pre-conceived ideas’ breaking down as I climbed tanks and walked around the facility. But when we started solving serious problems, they appreciated what we did. It is all about providing solutions and bringing value with your work.”

Work:life balance

“I am lucky that I have a very supportive family environment. My career and profession are important to my family and I believe you need good general planning and support to succeed in a career. I have had moments in my career where more support was needed, for example helping with my children when they were younger. It was an extended family effort, but I am very glad that I had and have that. With organization, schedules and good alignment, everything is possible. I think it is very important, from an employee retention perspective, that companies offer flexible schedules, which makes life easier for both, men and women and translates into more committed and satisfied employees.”

What do you do in your spare time?

“I am very interested in the Arts and attend performances whenever I can. I enjoy classical music a lot and have a son who is trained classically as a pianist and my daughter also plays, these genes don’t come from me 😊. I also enjoy cooking and gardening. I find these activities relaxing outside of work. I enjoy spending time with my family.”

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48% of Accenture’s new hires are women along with 30% of Accenture’s Executives. At ESP, Part of Accenture Industry X.0, we have many exciting opportunities Click Here to join the team.

 

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