How to navigate the diversity of the European market

I have just got back from taking part in two panel discussions in Geneva, one on women in pharma and one that I led on digital islands. Balance is elusive and everyone seems to struggle with not enough diversity or too much, so today I write about diversity in teams, systems and geographies.

Today’s blog topics:

– Panel discussion highlights – inclusion, equity and women in pharma
– Company culture and fit
– Panel discussion digital islands – the one thing you need to know to avoid them
– Europe – the diversity challenge

    Panel discussion highlights – inclusion, equity and women in pharma

    Gender, colour, and age are still a more accurate predictor of career success than talent. However, this looks to be changing. Our audience at the panel discussion on inclusion, equity and women at the Connect in Pharma event in Geneva was a mix of ages, genders, and nationalities. There were many people. We had many questions. And the organisers told us that the session was one of the highlights of the conference.

    Fellow speakers included Frauke Hangen, Cluster Management Biotechnology Germany, Claire Thompson, CEO Agility life sciences, UK, Maria Cudeiro GM Croma-Pharma, Spain. I believe a diverse group is best placed to drive diversity and so we invited audience volunteers Daniel Kägi, Managing Director BCG, René Bujard, Human Resources Director Galderma, and Ope Salau, Senior clinical lead hospital pharmacist to join us.

    My thoughts on inclusion, equity, women in pharma and diversity

    • Diversity and inclusion don’t happen organically. The retention/advancement of a specific group cannot be driven by a single intervention but requires orchestrated tailored effort.
    • Leading a diverse team is not easy, but done well it will provide a better output.
    • Nationality, socialization, religion, the legal environment, and culture influence outcomes. Take this into account when reading a report on diversity and inclusion. Conclusions are not always transferable.
    • A zero-tolerance policy towards discrimination in the workplace only has value if there are consequences
    • Productivity is not measured in hours – René shared the example of an employee who asked to reduce her hours to spend time with her child. The company offered her the option to work flexibly while maintaining her income.

    Key take-away: Be clear on the key drivers for diversity and inclusion, have a business case and apply meaningful metrics. Just because you can measure something doesn’t mean it has relevance.

    Company Culture and fit

    Cultural fit and equal opportunities have been on my mind since school when a teacher only chose boys to answer his questions. I tested my hypothesis that this behaviour was not random by sitting at the front of the classroom and putting my hand up before anyone else could. I cannot recall him ever selecting a girl to answer his questions even after I shared my observation with him. Lessons this could have taught me, although at the time I could not have acted on them:

    • You cannot change a system from the bottom up
    • If you have mentioned an issue and there is no change leave
    • Find a company, society, environment that values your unique talents rather than trying to fit somewhere that does not

    Key take-away: to find a great job fit know your value and know your values.

    Panel discussion digital islands – the one thing you need to know to avoid them

    Peter Shone, Iethico, Wolfgang Schwerdt, Data Science System architect on a mission to the ICRC and Mathias Leddin, Principle Data Scientist at Roche, joined me for a panel discussion on digital islands. This is generally a huge topic in pharma. Data analytics is big, access to data is big, but data is often marooned and inaccessible.

    In companies that predate the computer age digital islands evolved naturally, as departments moved from paper to system-based data storage without a comprehensive plan. In startup companies, digital islands evolve, often because the focus is on data generation rather than on data husbandry and while each biotech startup has scientists, commercial experts, and access to clinical trial experts, they typically do not have database experts or business intelligence experts on hand.

    There are many ways to solve the challenge of marooned data, I am happy to discuss this with you, it is one of my favourite topics, but according to my expert panelists there is only one way to avoid the situation in the first place: having a holistic strategy across your company and understanding and applying ontology and taxonomy when categorizing your data.

    Key take-away: The more time you invest in a data strategy early on the less effort and suffering you will experience later.

    Europe – the diversity challenge

    Biotech startups that expand outside their home market, often the US, frequently have questions regarding the complexity that is the rest of the world. Below is a high-level celebration of some of the complexity that Europe has to offer companies looking to establish a market presence.

    Computer systems: how to set up systems across multiple territories and multiple languages.

    Content generation: ideally companies like to have a single content engine that generates content for global use. Different labels, different customer expectations and different legal systems and legal habits mean that absent understanding of ex-US markets this desire can be thwarted.

    Customer engagement 1: culture influences how to engage customers in different markets. Understanding culture is critical to good customer engagement. Working with regional and local teams to give them the flexibility they need to be effective on the ground, while being true to the company’s guidelines is critical for success.

    Customer engagement 2: Channels: the channels that work well in France, may not work well in Japan, in the US or in South Korea. Markets have many similarities but also may differences. If you want to know how to reach your customer, you need to understand how people typically engage.

    Data management: relevance of the general data protection regulation (GDPR) for data storage, data exchange across territories etc.

    Healthcare systems: The world has a wonderful range of healthcare systems, understanding how they work to ensure patients are diagnosed and have access to treatment is a complex challenge.

    Industry association codes of practice: govern Transfers of Value, promotion of prescription only medicines and interactions between members and healthcare professionals, healthcare organisations and patient organisations. While the topics are broadly comparable, and in some cases country codes align very closely with the International and European Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers and Associations (IFPMA and EFPIA) codes, other codes are much more comprehensive and broader in scope such as the Association of the British Pharmaceutical industry (ABPI) code.

    Language: English is widely used in business. Identifying when to use English, when not to use English, and understanding what the regulations are around language when engaging with different customers is generally a struggle for teams that are used to a bi-lingual market. Guidance exists if you know where to look.

    Legislation: while there are commonalities, there are also differences from market to market.

    Pricing: pricing considerations influencing launch sequence.

    Regulatory authorities: US has the FDA; Europe has the European regulatory agency (EMA), but each European member state also has its own regulatory authority. Centralised submissions for medicines that will be available across Europe are submitted to EMA. However, medicines that will be authorised only in a single market are authorised by the national competent authority of the relevant member state.

    Sunshine act and the transfer of value: Transfer of value is typically captured ex-US. How this is done varies widely from market to market and company to company.

    These are many more, if I missed some of your favourite ones please drop me a line. If you wanted to add your thoughts, please drop me a line!

    Key takeaway: Be prepared when venturing into new geographies and consider local guides.

    I hope my blog provides you with some useful insights and, as ever, I look forward to hearing your thoughts. And if you have a challenging project, are working through a team or personal challenge and would like to discuss coaching to help you achieve that next level, please reach out for an informal chat.

    Best wishes

    Isabelle C. Widmer

    Panel Discussion at Connect in Pharma June 14th Geneva with Frauke Hangen, René Bujard, Ope Salau, Daniel Kägi, Maria Cudeiro and Claire Thompson