Jane Griffiths

Jane Griffiths

The case for gender equality in the workplace is an on-going debate. According to the BBC, new statistics show that the Europe-wide figure for women in boardrooms is just 13.7%. The European Union decided to tackle the problem with plans to increase the number of women directors in companies, but this is now under scrutiny as MP’s claim that it had been rushed into. The Independent reported that the average British CEO is a 53-year-old male with a background in finance. So with statistics not looking promising for women and findings that constantly highlight men in a higher position, in some cases, women are trying to prove themselves within the working environment.

We spoke to successful businesswoman Jane Griffiths, who recently spoke at Ethical Corporation’s Responsible Business Summit in London, about these particular struggles for women. Jane is not only chairman of pharmaceutical business Janssen in EMEA, but is also on the Senior Advisory Board of the Healthcare Businesswomen’s Association (HBA) in Europe. She is a motivated, hardworking, busy individual who strives for equality in the workplace. She believes that women are far better represented in business today, but she still thinks that it is vital to ensure they are not overlooked. She prides herself on the company’s ethos, which has a focus on equality for women.


Hi Jane! As chairman of Janssen in EMEA, you  are responsible for the pharmaceutical business across the entire region. How  does it feel to be the first female chairman of the company?

I feel very proud, that’s probably the most  appropriate word for me to use, and it is not just about being a women heading  up a business. It’s also the fact that it’s a healthcare business which is part  of Johnson & Johnson and it’s a pretty noble cause when you’re involved in  improving and extending people’s lives. It’s a doubly proud moment to be  responsible of such a great business and even more so when that business does  good.

You started off in sales – do you hope that  your journey will highlight that hard work and motivation really does pay off,  particularly for women?

Yes I do. We’ve got a good record with our company of  female diversity but it can always improve. Many of the people who come to talk  to me about their career plan are women and they specifically want to talk to me  because they want to understand how I did it and whether or not they can take  the same path. The fact that I did start at the grass roots level gives a lot of  women the feeling of ‘if she can do it then why can’t I do it?’

Starting off in the company, how did you find  the working environment? Was it very male dominated? How did you feel you came  across when giving ideas and having your say?

It was quite male dominated but I didn’t feel  hampered by that in any way. As a junior person, whether a man or women, when  you are junior, it sometimes is more difficult to make your voice heard, than  when you are more senior. But I do think since time has gone on, like 30 years  ago there might have been an old school of managers, the companies are very  different now. I didn’t feel it was particularly difficult but maybe that’s my  personality, I’ll make myself heard anywhere (laughs).

You are very passionate about women climbing  up the career ladder. Why do you think it is important that the working  environment should be equally divided with male and female employees?

I actually do believe having a good mix of diversity  in many aspects is an important contribute to business success, it’s not just  men and women but its different cultures, different background and different  personalities. I have a very diverse group of people who report to me because by  definition they are representing different geographies in the region, Europe,  Middle East, Africa, so that is good. There is a study by McKinsey, which showed  that big companies who had more than the average number of women on their board  were in general more successful than businesses where there was either no women  or just one. You need more than just a token woman. It’s not just about having  some nice girls on the board, it’s about having that diversity and having  different thoughts and different ways of doing things that are going to make it  a better business at the end of the day.


I read that you are also the Senior Advisory  Board of the Healthcare Businesswomen’s Association (HBA) in Europe. Why do you  think that it is important to focus on the development of women within the  healthcare industry?

The HBA is a very good place to meet people, to  network and to learn from each other about healthcare. I want the industry to be  successful so the more we can develop women, the more women we can have in  companies, then the better the industry will be for it.


Why do you think that it is still a struggle  for women to ‘break the glass ceiling?’

We don’t generally talk about the glass ceiling in  our company. The pharmaceutical group it is divided up into four regions. Mine  is Europe, Middle East and Africa and I have three colleagues, one who looks  after Asian Pacific, one who looks after North America and one who looks after  Latin America and three of those four positions are taken by women. So we have a  pretty good record in senior positions in the Pharmaceutical Group. There are a  number of things impacting career progression for women one is, how much  unconscious bias plays a part in women not moving forward. Another contributing  factor is that women don’t do themselves any favours either. It is well  documented that women don’t believe in themselves and often don’t think they are  qualified or ready for the next job, whereas more men believe that they are. An  additional thing is that women tend not to be so good at networking – we try to  encourage women in our business to network. Also, women think that they need to  be a perfect mother, perfect partner, perfect employee but you seldom will be  all on the same day. You can’t pile guilt on yourself because you can’t be good  at everything on one day. I think that is why some women give up their career or  hold back because they feel the pressure of not delivering simultaneously on  every aspect of their lives.

Have you been brought up with the ethos that  women should have the right to be in control of big businesses and play an  important role in the working environment?

Yes. My mother had a degree in chemistry, which was  unusual for her generation. She then went on to work as an industrial chemist  and met my father who worked for the BBC. But she had to leave that job as my  father had to go somewhere else for work, and of course that was the kind of  thing that was done in those days. Early on in my career I was doing reasonably  well and she told me to never compromise on what you want to do. I’ve always  remembered that and it’s so sad that she died relatively young and hasn’t seen  me get to this job, because it’s always been ringing in my ears when she said  that she regretted giving up her job. I have never felt that people have thought “you are a woman; you are never going to get anywhere”. So I think you have to  have a supportive workplace and supportive family. I’m lucky, I have a very  supportive husband and my mother set me off on the right tracks and I’ve been in  a company that is supportive of women.

What tips can you give to women who strive to  show their best potential at work?

Well, one of the things is whether you’re a woman or  a man you have to do a good job. Try to network and talk to people who you think  will be instrumental in your future career. Ask for honest feedback – what do  people think of you and ask for honesty on areas where you need to further  develop. I would say show your best potential when you’re at work. Be clear from  the start, set your priorities and make those clear to those around you. The  good thing for women is that a lot of men now take a much more active role in  family life, especially when both partners work. More friendly working practices  such as the ability to work from home on occasions and to take time off for  family commitments will benefit everyone, not just women.


What elements of your job are most rewarding?

How long have you got (laughs)? I absolutely love my  job and I feel very privileged because of that. I was speaking to my husband a  few months ago saying that I want everybody to get up in the morning and think: ‘I really look forward to going to work’. We’re going to be working for longer  and living for longer so we need to enjoy it. I also love working in a business  with the noble purpose of improving and prolonging human life. In the last 30  years, 40% of increased life expectancy has been down to pharmaceuticals. Seeing  people develop in their careers is a big, big aspect of my job and I find it  very rewarding when I see talented people doing well in the company – particularly when women do very well. I’m a business person too, so it’s  rewarding that the business is successful.


As a mother, how do you balance your working  life with your home life?

My kids are grown up now, but if I reflect back when  the children were younger I made sure that I had help with childcare. I didn’t  have my mother around as she died when the children were little and I didn’t  have a big network of friends close by, so I decided to use a lot of my taxed  income on a nanny for several years. It meant that if I was in a board meeting  or up to my eyes in work I wasn’t looking at my watch thinking ‘how am I going  to get home in time to pick up the kids from nursery/school?’ The other thing is  establishing with your partner what your goals are. I told mine that I was quite  ambitious and I said when I have kids I will continue to work. Make sure that  you set your own parameters for how you want to balance your work and your life – but never think that you’re going to perfect at everything on the same day and  don’t beat yourself up if there is a pile of washing  the size of Mount  Everest (laughs). Put it into perspective, if you’re enjoying your work don’t  beat yourself up, prioritise your family, participate in things they enjoy, go  to the sports day and put time in your diary.


What advice would you give to women who  struggle to spend time with their children while trying to move up the career  ladder?

Well I think if you really want to spend more time  with your kids you have to prioritise it. Make it clear to your superiors that  occasionally you will need to take time off for family stuff but make sure that  you still deliver on your job commitments. Organise your work to best effect and  make sure you have good childcare arrangements as well.

Do you hope that the work you do will inspire  women to help further their careers in areas they may feel are out of  reach?

Yes I do. I started off as a salesperson and when  people see that in my biography, they think “wow, maybe I could do that too, if  she can do it then so can I’. And indeed they can.





by for www.femalefirst.co.uk

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