Empowering women in science: How can organizations bridge the gender gap

By: Saskia Hoving, Wed May 24 2023
Saskia H

Author: Saskia Hoving

Reducing gender gaps and inequalities, searching for ways to empower and support women, and fostering a workplace that benefits all should be the goal of any organization. We spoke with Amanda Guiraldelli Mahr, Minkyung Kim, Debra Bouyer, and Annu Uppal from USP, a non profit standard setting organization, to learn about their organization’s efforts to bridge the gender gap.

Every organization should make it a priority to promote gender equality in science. Elevating women in science requires being conscious of existing inequalities and biases, actively promoting women, creating, and enabling visibility of women scientists’ work, recognizing their successes, and more. What should an organization consider when setting out to create a gender diverse workplace and the environment in which it can prosper? We asked Amanda, Minkyung, Debra, and Annu from U.S. Pharmacopeia (an independent, non-profit, scientific organization that sets quality standards for medicines, dietary supplements, and food ingredients worldwide) what insights they can share on their organization’s journey to bridging the gender gap.

Women, especially in science, face a multitude of challenges, created, and preserved by gender bias. What are some steps taken at USP to confront these problems, and actively and meaningfully support women?

USP has made an explicit and formal commitment to ensure that gender equality issues are addressed across all pillars of our Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging (DEIB) strategy. Following analysis that identified disparities in favourability and workplace experiences for women, compared to men, USP launched the Strategic Initiative on Women (SIW). This initiative builds on previous efforts to fully examine and address the adverse experiences of women at USP and determine how to ensure that all women have equal opportunity to thrive.

The SIW is focused on developing an action plan based on existing USP-specific data combined with scientific literature to improve the experiences of women at USP. It is led by a core team of global leaders closely supported by a technical team of subject matter experts on data, learning, and people insights. The plan covers topics such as enhancing career path, promotions, and advancement, as well as addressing microaggression and bias.

Recognizing the importance of allyship as an effective way to show up for others, USP’s Office of Organizational Culture, Equity, and Inclusive Excellence will launch programs geared towards equipping male scientists with an awareness of the unique challenges women in science face. They will foster a mindset to intervene in those challenges and equip participants with tools to show up as allies against gender bias, and thus foster a more inclusive and equitable culture.

What has been your experience with communicating the strategies and plans for bridging the gender gap and supporting women scientists within USP?

We held a hybrid learning session during our Scientific Affairs, Global External Affairs, and Strategic Customer Development retreat, to provide information about USP’s continuous efforts to support women and create a more inclusive and diverse working environment. This was an excellent opportunity to introduce our co-workers from all backgrounds to programs offered, foster a dialogue on gender bias, and allow people to share from their experiences, which touched many people’s hearts.

Do you have any advice or tips for other organizations that might be looking to support women in science and promote gender diversity? Can you share some specific examples from USP’s experience?

An important driver of any DEIB strategy—e.g., on supporting women— is to ensure that it is integrated into all existing frameworks, goals, policies, and culture-building work within the organization. DEIB should be so well-integrated that it becomes inseparable from the “main” business: DEIB strategies work best when they are how organizations do their work, not just why.

An example of such integration at USP is the incorporation of DEIB considerations at Performance Appraisals and Development Processes for all employees and managers. This ensures that DEIB goals and commitments on supporting women and creating gender diversity are considered throughout the organization, and not just in the leadership levels.

Another important aspect which is crucial when setting out to create a gender diverse environment is investment in professional development of women and other employees, especially those from historically excluded communities. This promotes employee engagement, innovation, and retention, which in turn leads to better performance outcomes for the organization.

Mentoring programs, which maximize employees’ growth potential, are an example of an effective way for organizations to invest in their employees. They enhance problem-solving and leadership skills, crucial for the development of future women leaders within an organization. The USP Global Women’s Network developed a mentoring program which currently has 148 participants and had over 200 participants in its last cohort. The benefits of mentoring to both mentors and mentees are numerous, and the success of this program led to plans to make it organization-wide, for the benefit of all USP staff.

It is our hope that more programs to educate colleagues internally on supporting women will be available, which will help to cultivate a healthier workplace for all.

About the authors
Amanda Guiraldelli © SpringerNature 2023

Amanda Guiraldelli (she/her/hers) has been with USP since 2012 and holds the position of scientific affairs manager. She is also the scientific liaison for the USP chapters <1220> Analytical Procedure Life Cycle and <1039> Chemometrics in the compendial science group-general chapters. 

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Previously, Amanda worked as senior scientist at the USP reference standard laboratory for eight years with characterization of compendial standards. She is a visiting professor at the University of Campinas (UNICAMP) in Brazil at the Institute of Chemistry and is a frequent speaker and instructor on topics related to analytical procedure life cycle and Analytical Quality by Design (AQbD). Amanda is a specialist in chromatography, mass spectrometry and chemometrics, and has more than 12 years of experience in pharmaceutical R&D areas. Prior to joining USP, she was R&D scientist in the Brazilian pharmaceutical industry and a visiting scientist at TU Berlin in Germany and Leiden University in Netherlands (Center for Proteomics and Metabolomics) working on proteins characterization by LC-HRMS and procedure development using UHPLC-HRMS. Amanda holds a bachelor’s degree in pharmacy biochemistry and Ph.D. in analytical chemistry from the University of São Paulo (metabolomics by UHPLC-HRMS, GC-MS and 1H NMR and chemometrics). 

Minkyung Kim © SpringerNature 2023

Minkyung Kim (she/her/hers) is a Scientific Affairs Manager at USP, APAC. She holds her licenses as a registered pharmacist in the state of Pennsylvania and in South Korea. Her focus areas are advanced therapies and mAb.

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Kim is leading various stakeholder engagements, such as workshops, roundtables, and collateral development, in collaboration with regulators and industry to strengthen these relationships. She also conducts several internal stakeholder trainings and publishes research papers and trade press releases. She led global cell and gene landscaping projects to identify opportunities and challenges for product development, extended the USP network by identifying regional key opinion leaders, and created a network for further collaboration. Before joining USP, she worked at Mundipharma and Bayer as a medical science liaison leading advisory boards for immunology and oncology products and deploying diagnostic validating platforms for various companion diagnostics. Her work experience also includes research at the National Cancer Center in South Korea.

Debra Bouyer © SpringerNature 2023

Debra L. Bouyer (she/her/hers) is the Diversity, Equity, Inclusion & Belonging Program Manager for USP since August 2022. In her role, Debbie works closely with USP’s Affinity Groups to provide support and ensure programmatic alignment with the organization’s goals.

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Additionally, she develops programs to strengthen USP’s culture of inclusion and belonging. Debbie’s experience developing programs to promote a diverse and inclusive work culture for a Fortune 100 company led her to leave a career in compliance to pursue her passion to work full-time in diversity, equity, and inclusion. Through the development of innovative programs, her work will make a positive impact in her organization.  Debbie is a huge proponent in the power of mentoring and its impact on the lives of others, especially our younger generation from historically excluded communities. Debbie holds a Bachelor’s in Sociology from the University at Albany and certificates in Paralegal Studies (NYU) and Diversity & Inclusion (Cornell). 

Annu Uppal © SpringerNature 2023

Annu Uppal (she/her/hers) is Director of Scientific Affairs at USP, leading a global team of scientists. Her team is responsible for driving and supporting the organization's scientific priorities, which are focused on advancing the quality of medicines using USP's science and standards.

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She is also leading USP’s initiative of Knowledge hub for Multi Attribute Methods (MAM), scientific engagement activities, external collaborations and helping develop scientific content. Before joining USP, she worked as a technical global lead for characterization and quantification of large molecules at SCIEX. She has experience in physiochemical characterization and impurity profiling of mAbs, peptides & other protein biotherapeutics. Her areas of interest are glycosylation analysis, MAM, native mode and host cell protein analysis. Annu is the author of 30+ peer reviewed manuscripts and book chapters. She is also faculty for USP biologics education programs.

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Saskia H

Author: Saskia Hoving

In the Dordrecht office, Marketing Manager Saskia Hoving produces The Link Newsletter for research communities. Focusing on the evolving role of libraries regarding SDGs, Open Science, and researcher support, she explores academia's intersection with societal progress. With a lifelong passion for sports and recent exploration into "Women’s inclusion in today’s science", Saskia brings dynamic insights to her work.