Reporting to you from Chicago at the Sixth Annual Healthcare Businesswomenâ€™s Association leadership conference, where the storyâ€”set in this city of the new US Presidentâ€”is all about change.
The Pharm Exec crew arrived in a surprisingly tranquil Windy Cityâ€”the only explanation that it was the calm after the storm of Tuesdayâ€™s election. Certainly, many HBA members had been up all night watching the election, with a dozen members who took to the streets and joined the rally for Barack Obama at Grant Park.
â€œIt was like being at Woodstock,â€ said Nancy Larsen, President of PROmedica Communications, who was part of a group that attended the rally. â€œEven though we were standing shoulder-to-shoulder in this massive crowd, it felt serene to be with all these peopleâ€”it gave me goose bumps.â€
â€œItâ€™s not watching historyâ€”itâ€™s actually being a part of it,â€ said Eve Dryer, Principal and President of Vox Medica Public Relations.
Yet even with the election front-and-center in the nationâ€™s consciousness, executives here seem more focused on pharmaâ€™s patent cliff crisis and the latest round of layoffs, instead of major healthcare reform.
â€œWe get the sense that there is some pent-up demand for talent,â€ said one attendee. â€œWe think people might begin hiring after the electionâ€”weâ€™ll be able to tell by year end if that is happening. People may begin hiring because we donâ€™t get the sense that Obama will get to healthcare first.â€
The focus of the conference is leadership development, and many conversations and presentations were peppered with concern over how tough times will affect careers in pharma, particularly for those who have been traditionally underrepresented.
â€œMany of the banks were at the forefront of setting up on-ramping and off-ramping career tracks for womenâ€”they had toâ€”and really paved the way for other industries,â€ said Meryl Zausner, CFO of Novartis. â€œBut now, those efforts will be hampered.â€
Still, it seems that many companies are trying their best with programs to bring up women and other minority groups. Novartis CEO Ludwig Hanston accepted the HBAâ€™s 2nd Annual ACE Award on behalf of the company forÂ its Empowering Women Impacting Novartis and Women in Leadership program.
Meanwhile, Johnson & Johnson (the 2007 ACE Award winner) had a chance to take the stage to talk about how it is seeking to expand its workplace program for women, all 60,000, with new efforts to focus on its European affiliates, sales force in Japan, and even to its group in Cape Town, South Africa while Adrian Sax, who heads business development for King Pharmaceuticals, spoke about the grassroots efforts for inclusion happening at smaller companies.