At the 7th Advancing Women’s Leadership Skills & Opportunities in Pharma & Healthcare conference, top executives from across the pharmaceutical industry gathered to share their personal stories of success and perseverance to educate and inspire the next generation of female leaders.

Despite a growing emphasis on diversity & inclusion and a more accepted understanding of the business impact that can be achieved through greater gender balance in organizational leadership, women still often face unique challenges at work. Women still make, on average, 82 cents for every dollar a man makes – and when you segment this statistic for women of color, the discrepancy is even greater. Just a few weeks ago, August 3rd marked Black Women’s Equal Pay Day, or the day Black women had to work into 2021 to catch up to what white, non-Hispanic men earned in 2020.

Prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, many women often found themselves as the “only”; the only woman, or the only woman of color, or the only LGBTQ+ employee, etc. in the room, which can make them more susceptible to unconscious bias and even acts of microaggression at work. As conference rooms have been replaced by virtual Zoom rooms over the past 18+ months, many women have found it even harder to be seen and to have their voices be heard. Evolving virtual dynamics and hybrid ways of working require new tactics and strategies to stay visible.

Chandra C. Abbott, Ph.D., Senior Director and Head, Scientific Communications and Operations at Biohaven Pharmaceuticals, shared advice with conference attendees on how to Navigate Getting Noticed, Hired and Promoted in a Virtual World.

“Do things. Tell People.”

While work-from-home flexibility offers advantages for women, the benefits of a home office also come with a few trade-offs. The social networks that are created dynamically in the hallway, in meetings or at the water cooler no longer happen spontaneously in the way they did when we were all working in the same offices. Women need to be more intentional and more proactive in making sure that their boss and their colleagues are aware of what they are working on and the value that it delivers. The only visibility you have today is the visibility you intentionally create.

To ensure you are noticed, Dr. Abbott provides these suggestions:

Seek Out Mentorship

Be proactive in seeking out both formal and informal connections that can give you clear advice and connect you to others within your company and across your industry that can help you learn and grow.

Build Your Network

It’s not just who you know, it’s who knows you and, more importantly, what you are capable of. The more people who know you and the unique value you bring, the more likely it is that your name will come up in conversations when new career opportunities arise. Take advantage of opportunities to network virtually or in person, when possible, with others across your organization and beyond.

Swap Praise

Help others earn recognition for the value they bring to your team, your project or your organization. When someone saves the day or goes above and beyond, make some noise on their behalf. Let your boss – or theirs! – know. Mention it during your next conference call or post it on your internal social channels. Create a community that elevates and recognizes others and they’ll reciprocate for you by helping your accomplishments become celebrated and publicized.

Acquire New Skills & Ask for More Responsibility

If you are still working remotely, take advantage of the extra hour or two that you save by not commuting every day and register for outside training courses to expand your skill set and your potential value. As you acquire these new skills, be proactive in exploring ways to use them. Asking for new or different responsibilities increases your value within the organization and puts a spotlight on your growing capabilities.

Raise your hand and volunteer to help your team or other departments. If you don’t see opportunities on adjacent teams, ask your boss if there are company-wide or cross-team projects where you can contribute.

Track Your Progress

Dr. Abbott suggests that you start a new weekly ritual: every Friday, take time to create an outline documenting all that you’ve accomplished that week. What were you most proud of? What challenges did you overcome? What impact did you deliver? In this short-term, this practice can serve as reinforcement and motivation to help you focus on the momentum you are building day-by-day. In the long-term, this list will pay dividends when it comes time to update your resume, ask for a promotion or negotiate a raise.

Women leaders can combat a lack of in-person visibility by becoming their own advocate and being intentional in how they communicate and collaborate to be seen and heard.

Dr. Abbott’s presentation included additional tips embedded in her 4-pronged approach for career advancement in a virtual setting, summarized by these key themes:

  • Investing in Yourself & Relationships
  • Optimize Your Energy
  • Be Your Own Advocate
  • Over-Communicate

Dr. Abbott can be reached at

Source: Chandra C. Abbott, Ph.D., Senior Director and Head, Scientific Communications and Operations at Biohaven Pharmaceuticals