Women’s leadership in STEM

On International Women’s Day, Susan Forda, Vice-President of Global Regulatory Affairs International at Lilly and Noha Kassem, Senior Director for Quality International at Lilly share their perspectives on the important contributions women make to life sciences. 

Susan and Noha full profiles are part of The Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry’s (ABPI) International Women's Day series celebrating the diversity of women in the pharmaceutical industry and highlighting the range of roles available to young girls who aspire to work in STEM.


In the journey for innovation, not a single person or talent can be wasted. At Lilly, we believe that a diverse and inclusive workforce is crucial to deliver the best medicines to the people who need them the most. The women at Lilly provide strong and invaluable leadership for our company. Today, two of these inspirational women share their story.

Frequently, women refrain from pursuing a career in science or technology. Did you always wanted to work in life sciences?

Susan Forda: Yes, I was fascinated by how the human body works, by how it reacts to medicines and by the way medicines can alter the course of a disease. English and History also interested me but I felt that the only way to access life science knowledge was through formal education, whereas I could read up on English and History in my own time.

Noha Kassem: Yes, I had always been interested in science from a young age. My family also strongly encouraged me to pursue science. I selected Pharmacy as it covers a broad range of scientific topics and provides a very good foundation to build on. My PhD gave me the opportunity to research and explore new areas of science and as a result of my research, I registered a patent, which was highly satisfying.

Why did you choose to get involved with the biopharmaceutical industry?

Susan Forda: Working in the biopharmaceutical industry always appealed to me because I felt that it would be a way to make a positive contribution to society, by helping to provide solutions to alter the course of diseases. In addition, it is an industry with good career options and prospects so I knew it would offer a range of opportunities for a successful career, which proved to be true!

Noha Kassem: The biopharmaceutical industry, especially innovative companies like Lilly, works to deliver new treatments to people who are desperate for drugs that are effective and tolerable. I wanted to be part of this. The biopharmaceutical industry also provides a number of career choices, which enables you to explore new avenues, gain new skills and continue to be challenged. I have now been with Lilly for 27 years, held a number of different roles and would say I have never had a dull day!

What would you like to see for women in STEM in the near future?

Susan Forda: It's important for women to grab hold of the opportunities that STEM careers present. STEM is where the future lies. Traditionally, women have held back and not seen STEM as their area but it's important that women do get involved as their contributions are not only just as valid as men's but they will also provide a different perspective and approach, which ultimately will help lead to better outputs.

Noha Kassem: I would like to see more forums encouraging women to pursue studies and work in STEM. I have participated in career evenings at my daughter's school and was amazed to see that many young girls are not aware of the opportunities and career options available. I would like young women/girls not to be influenced by their peers or society that does not put a big focus on encouraging girls to pursue STEM. Women can enrich the creativity and insights of research. Women are needed in research to increase the range of inventions and breakthroughs that come from looking at problems in a different way than men typically do.