There is a significant role the private sector can and ought to play in supporting empowerment and including women in leadership positions.
In anticipation of International Women’s Day, I am contributing this blog post to our Global Goals series. I am hopeful that there is, already, a stand-alone goal dedicated to gender equality. We know that without gender equality and a full role for women in society, in the economy, in governance, we will not be able to achieve the better world we all hope for. As a woman in STEM and management, I am fortunate to be one of comparatively few. I grew up in a family of strong women, tenacious, full of determination. My aunt was the first woman engineering graduate in Iraq where in the 1930s women participated actively in the professions and higher education for women was highly prized. Today,throughout the world, there are many strong women who are guiding, leading, helping, pushing but too often these remain invisible. Our future needs their voices and vision. If we are to solve global challenges, we need all the talent we can get and discounting half of humankind cannot but have a huge cost, including economically. Without women’s voices, certain extremely important issues may never even be discussed.
When it comes to women in science, they have, of course, made important contributions to research and innovation. Yet their potential remains largely underutilized. Today, just 28% of the world’s researchers are women1 and they remain underrepresented in R&D in every region globally. In Western Europe and North America the situation is somewhat better but there still, fewer than one in three scientific researchers are female.
Recognizing women’s contributions to science and giving them their due desserts on the world stage would be one concrete way to foster change. The L’Oréal-UNESCO For Women in Science Programme, for example, has identified, funded and given visibility to outstanding female researchers around the world and certainly this is a worthy initiative which deserves to be imitated and emulated by others. The private sector can play a crucial role in supporting empowerment and including women in leadership positions. And making them more visible in the sciences will inevitably improve their prospects in other sectors.
We, as companies and individuals, can empower women to participate as leaders and innovators in tackling global challenges and support them in realizing their dreams and aspirations in both work and life.
Araz Raoof is currently Scientific Affairs and Analysis lead at the Janssen Research & Development in Belgium. Prior to this role, she was a Vice President Global Functional Head of Community of Research Excellence & Advanced Technology (C.R.E.A.Te / Discovery Sciences) at Janssen Research & Development, also in Belgium. Araz completed her Ph.D. studies in Pharmaceutical Sciences at the Catholic University of Louvain, Belgium and in addition she holds an International Executive MBA from the Michael Smurfit Graduate School of Business, University College Dublin, Ireland. She is a former Vice President EU Head C.R.E.A.Te and was prior to that former Senior Director of Global Preclinical Development, Tibotec, Belgium. She has also headed In Vivo Pharmacology, at the Elan Corporation, Ireland. Araz is the author and inventor of more than 70 publications and patents and a member of numerous scientific bodies.