International Women’s Day

Two female Roche scientists in conversation.

We take bold and diverse scientific approaches to find innovative solutions for patients, and we believe taking equally bold steps to build a diverse and inclusive workplace will lead to better ideas, stronger collaboration and a vibrant culture in support of our purpose.

On International Women’s Day, Roche celebrates our progress in building that culture and renews our commitment to #beboldforchange, this year’s International Women’s Day campaign theme.

International Women's Day is a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. The day also marks a call to action for accelerating gender parity. 

“Gender parity is a shared responsibility. It’s going to take every one of us – men and women working side by side to achieve our mutual objective. As an organization, we have made a global commitment to increase the percentage of our leaders who are women, and we’re taking bold steps to accelerate our progress,” says Alexander Hardy, Head of Global Product Strategy and Executive Sponsor of the Diversity & Inclusion Council for Roche Pharma.  

Bold progress for women

Today at Roche, we have more women in leadership than ever before. We've increased the percentage of women in senior leadership positions from 13% in 2009 to 26% in 2016 and have set a goal to increase this to 29% by 2020.

“A diversity of approaches, voices and ideas is what helps us pursue great science. And that’s why we’ve been taking bold steps to create a culture where all voices can contribute to our mission,” says Sandra Horning, Chief Medical Officer and Head, Global Product Development

About a quarter of our General Managers and Country Managers are women, in countries spanning the world, including Turkey, Egypt, Indonesia, Myanmar, Singapore, Belgium, China, Lebanon, Finland, Greece and Venezuela.

Bold actions for change

We’ve taken bold steps to drive change and support gender parity, not just in our leadership, but in all areas of our organization. Some examples are:

  • Saudi Arabia, where in just the last year we’ve doubled the number of female employees thanks to targeted recruiting efforts and practical programs that support the needs of Saudi women in the workplace.  
  • Roche Asia Pacific, where we’ve expanded the number of high-potential female talent and where women in line management exceed 50%.
  • Women’s networks have also been created across the organization to strengthen our internal pipeline of female talent, build important networking opportunities, and develop leadership abilities.  

“Targeted diversity and inclusion action plans are in place in more than 70 Roche affiliates. We’ve also established a global Diversity & Inclusion Council to drive further progress on gender parity and all aspects of diversity,” says James Rottman, Head of Diversity & Inclusion for Roche Pharma.

With greater diversity and inclusion we all stand to gain

At Roche, supporting gender parity is one way in which we’re working to create a diverse and inclusive culture. In doing so, we all benefit; our people are inspired to do their very best work, our company can continue to make unprecedented advances in the understanding of disease and development of breakthrough treatments. And, most importantly, our patients can benefit from truly transformational medicines and live longer, healthier lives.

Sophie Kornowski-Bonnet, Head of Roche Partnering
Sophie Kornowski-Bonnet, Head of Roche Partnering

Personal insights from one of the top women in biotech

Sophie Kornowski-Bonnet, Head of Roche Partnering and a member of the Extended Corporate Executive Committee, decided at an early age that she wanted to make a difference in the pharmaceutical industry. After completing her doctorate in pharmacy in Paris and while working already in a pharma company she started studying for her MBA in Marketing and Finance in Chicago. She then embarked on a varied career in international pharmaceutical companies in France, the USA, Israel and Switzerland. In 2014, Sophie was selected by FierceBiotech as one of the top women in biotech. As Head of Roche Partnering, Sophie and her team are focused on acquiring innovation from biotech and pharma companies by working in multidisciplinary teams on scientific and commercial areas that Roche is engaged in. 
On the occasion of International Women’s Day, Sophie looks back on her 10 years with Roche, and  shares some personal insights into her world and work.

How do you manage to strike an appropriate work-life balance?

The first 35 years of my life were defined by my work, and that was the right thing for me at the time. My focus didn't change until my son was born. He's what matters most to me. I have learned how to reconcile career and family. When my son was younger I used to look after him in the morning, work during the day, spend the evening with him and then carry on working at night if I had to. Many people are put off by that lifestyle, but for me it was exactly right.  
As for work-life balance, there's no universal magic formula. Everybody has to find out for themselves what is right for them and organise their lives accordingly. For example, I care about, as much as possible, having a healthy lifestyle with enough sleep and exercise. That is critical for me to in order to be able to stretch myself when the business requires it, because of intense projects and lots of travel. It's important to be self-aware and draw the limits on what is important for you.

What was your greatest personal challenge as a woman?

It's in my nature to be very enthusiastic, to have grand visions, and to do everything in my power to make them a reality. I wasn't born a diplomat and able to make compromises. But if you lead a team, that's exactly the quality you need. I had to learn to transform myself from a speedboat into an ocean liner and I can tell you one thing: it’s a journey, however, being an ocean liner is great fun.

What prejudices exist against women at the workplace?

There are a few persistent prejudices that women have to struggle against in the working environment. They are rarely seen as decision-makers and are expected to support and nurture rather than make decisions, sometimes even tough ones. Women who have a certain amount of assertiveness often cause anxiety in their colleagues and are the subject of criticism because that's not the sort of behaviour that's expected of a woman. You can't allow yourself to be influenced by prejudices like that.

What advice would you give people embarking on their careers – men as well as women?

First, I would advise them to look for a field in which they can become better than everybody else, in which they stand out from the crowd by virtue of the expertise they have acquired. Ideally it should be a field that they enjoy, but unfortunately that's something you can't tell at the outset. Additionally, I believe it is important to own the consequences of one’s own decisions. Many people want to grow fast in their careers and are ready to move on as soon as a new opportunity comes up. I however, would advise that they first see the fruits of their work before moving on to the next challenge. 
Secondly, it's important to learn from others. By that I don't mean just line managers and colleagues in managerial positions. You can learn something from every individual.

Acknowledgement: The text is based on an interview  with the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, conducted on behalf of Women's Day 2017 to celebrate women's accomplishments.

Tags: People, Culture