Gender And Diversity Drive Success

There is a paucity of women in boardrooms in the pharmaceutical industry. Puseletso Mompei talks to two female leaders about the importance of gender equality and diversity in their organisations.

A holistic approach to decision-making

Shannon Te Roller

Sharon Te Roller, managing director of Mundi Pharma since 2017, echoes the importance of gender representation at board level. She says: “It’s critical to have both genders represented at board level as this brings various approaches and viewpoints to the table so that one is able to take a more holistic approach to decision-making.”

Te Roller has moved from town planning to pharmaceuticals and the boardroom, and says: “advancing quickly through various managerial roles has required me to be tenacious, adaptable and push my learning agility. I have had to learn that failure is not a bad thing; often it’s the best way to learn and to challenge approaches. What is important is how fast you respond and implement your learning,” she explains.

Her position at the helm of the organisation has allowed her the opportunity to help members of her team to reach their potential and push their perceived limitations. She emphasises that the people employed in a company are diverse as is the market in which an organisation plays. “If one has a singular view, this will mitigate the potential for an organisation to really understand and play successfully across a broader base.”

Embracing diversity

A qualified attorney, Head of Legal at Sanofi since her appointment in 2018, Gobisha Ankiah appreciates the challenging legal framework of the pharmaceutical industry. Her role, she explains, allows her to provide real value to the business and form a vital part of the core team.

Gobisha Ankiah

Ankiah additionally sits on the South African Sanofi Gender Balance Council — the local committee of the Global Sanofi Gender Balance Committee. She also drives BEE transformation in Sanofi as part of a transversal task team, which is committed to the promotion of employment equity as one of its pillars.

“The most important lesson I’ve learnt is that to be a successful and influential in-house counsel, you need far more than a keen legal mind. It is not only interpretation and analysis of the law, but more importantly, application of the law to the business.” Open-mindedness, flexibility, and operational knowledge are key. “I have found that legal excellence must also be coupled with a high level of integrity and a genuine willingness to work transversally. Being empathetic and having a great sense of humour also goes a long way,” adds Ankiah.

Regarding the importance of operating in a progressive company, Ankiah says: “Gender balance and diversity are key to any organisation that wants to remain viable and sustainable in the long-term. There is innumerable value to be derived from the sharing and embracing of different world views and experiences, both from a gender and diversity perspective.” She adds that women, people of colour, people of all sexual orientations, religious beliefs, disabilities, and age groups all bring a set of values and insights that are vital to shape and drive the future sustainability of an organisation.

“Having all of these groups represented at board and exco level is essential, as it is the company’s leadership that sets the tone and values for the rest of the employees. And it is the employees who build and drive the brand and reputation of the organisation in the market. Intolerance and discrimination have no place in business anymore.”

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