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Empowering women in the pharma packaging boardroom

Packaging Solutions

On International Women's Day (March 8), it is a prime opportunity to reflect on the status of women in the pharmaceutical packaging sector and address the pressing need for better representation in boardrooms worldwide. To help us outline on the evolving role of women in the pharma packaging category, we asked a selection of female colleagues at MM Packaging to get their thoughts, insights and perspective.


Women constitute nearly half of the global population at 49.7%, yet their presence in the pharmaceutical supply chain doesn't always mirror this statistic. Research conducted by the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI) highlights that despite slightly outnumbering men in the overall pharma supply chain, women are significantly underrepresented in leadership positions, particularly in the boardroom. The study shows that women hold less than a third of C-suite executive roles in the pharmaceutical sector. Similarly, in the packaging industry, just 40% of executive roles are held by women.


‘Representation is extremely important. Women are present in the pharma packaging workforce, but their representation often tends to be skewed more towards more administrative roles,’ said Linda Holmberg, marketing and  communication coordinator. 


We can, perhaps, trace this issue to a source of the well publicised gender gap in women pursuing STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) careers. Although progress is being made, the gender gap persists despite strong efforts to promote gender diversity and inclusion. In pharma packaging terms, women may be well represented in design, and traditional business functions such as human resources, administration or customer service, but much less so in technical, manufacturing and leadership roles. It is clear that more must be done to address the balance, and both encourage more females into leadership roles and promote the key business advantages that come with a diverse boardroom.


‘We must showcase what they can expect and demonstrate the development possibilities that businesses like MM provide. There are powerful women in our global organisation, and this is a fantastic showcase. Women feel inspired by female success stories,’ said Heike Kahlert, human resources manager. 


‘Engaging with universities and academic institutions is a good opportunity to show what we can do, and would give them women considering the industry a new perspective, as well as finding the right path to achieve it,’ added Caroline Seguin, product safety manager.


Perspectives on the challenge

MM Packaging is proud to include many talented women in its pharma packaging workforce. Like the vast majority of packaging businesses, it knows there is further work to do in creating a representative and balanced workforce. 


Here, a selection of the company’s female team members provide their thoughts on why women are not well represented at all levels of the packaging category. 


While responses were varied, many common themes could be seen. For example, the pharma packaging industry, much like the general packaging sector, often struggles with creating a clear work-life balance. 


‘One of the main barriers is the poor work-life balance that still exists throughout the pharma packaging industry. This can often pressure women choose between career progression and a family life, which is why we often find fewer women in upper management positions,’ said Almudena, marketing support administrator.


Another important point raised from­ the MM Packaging team was that senior role hiring decisions may be based on previously holding the same or similar role previously, creating a form of unconscious bias. This practice only intensifies the challenge, where women are indeed present in the pharma packaging workforce, but their representation tends to be skewed more towards more administrative roles. Research shows that among the top 10 pharmaceutical companies by revenue, only one has a female CEO. This lack of gender diversity isn't unique to healthcare but reflects broader disparities in corporate leadership across industries. 


The business case for diversity

So why does this matter? Gender equality isn't just a moral issue or a box ticking exercise; it is also a strategic business decision. Studies have consistently shown that companies with diverse leadership teams outperform their peers financially. Increased gender diversity correlates with higher profitability, improved innovation, and enhanced decision making processes. Addressing gender equality isn't just about doing the right thing, it is about driving business success and protecting the bottom line.


‘Being part of this industry allows me to contribute to advancements in healthcare while breaking barriers and paving the way for greater gender diversity and inclusion. Also, knowing that my work directly impacts the wellbeing of patients fills me with a sense of purpose and accomplishment,’ said Isidora, marketing analyst.


The obstacles hindering women's advancement in the pharmaceutical packaging sector are multifaceted. From unconscious bias to systemic barriers, women face numerous challenges when it comes to climbing the corporate ladder. Addressing these challenges requires a concerted effort from both packaging industry leaders and policymakers to create an environment where women can thrive. 


In our open discussions with female members of our team, we asked what they felt would improve the attraction and retention rate of women in the packaging industry. Their views and perspectives included:


Women need to see role models in the industry. Hearing from other successful women would help them visualise where they could be and see that it is possible. As such, it is important that successful women in the pharma packaging industry are visible and celebrated.


Creating a positive workplace culture that offers clear opportunities for progression, and positive support mechanisms. This also means putting added focus on work-life balance to show that a family life and career progression are not mutually exclusive.


While industry wide action is needed, we also have a responsibility to see ourselves, and act, as role models for other women and girls.


Within its long term growth strategy at MM Packaging, it aims to create a diverse and inclusive environment at every level of the business – and change begins with each one of us. As we celebrate International Women's Day 2024, let us recommit ourselves to breaking down barriers and building a more equitable future for women in the pharmaceutical packaging industry. 



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