Leaning in at Lilly

Today's post comes from Louise Timlin, Senior Director, Global Patient Outcomes and Real-World Evidence.

Times are changing for women working in our industry. In an era of #TimesUp and #MeToo, the chorus of voices calling for more women in the boardroom to the lab and beyond continues to grow. At Lilly, we’re not shying away from this challenge. No, I’d say we are “leaning in” à la Sheryl Sandberg… all in. And that includes me.  

Driving cultural change

In 2015, I co-founded the Gender Inclusion Network (GIN) at Lilly to help drive this culture change across our company. The network offers ALL employees – not just the C-suite – opportunities to challenge the gender biases and stereotypes that hold women back. 

During network events, we openly discuss the unconscious biases that advantage men in everything from job interviews to everyday meetings. We offer practical strategies to push back against the imposter syndrome that bullies our minds into submission. We support each other as working parents and discuss ways to achieve better work-life balance.

The network has created a safe space for everyone – including men – to share their toughest experiences and face their deepest fears. It is also a place for women to embrace their ambition and realize their potential as leaders. Network members have become outstanding champions for each other, and it has been amazing to watch and participate in.

Saying goodbye to “manels”

Recently, I was challenged to put my values to the test. Over the years, I’ve seen far too many “manels” of all male panellists at the scientific conferences I attend. This is especially dispiriting given the growing number of accomplished women scientists and researchers in our field.

Finally, I had enough. To raise this issue in the scientific community, I helped to organise a panel at a prominent conference in 2018 on the business case for gender diversity and the unconscious biases that hold women back. The women leaders we put on stage embodied the movement afoot, both in their words and presence.

The long line that formed afterward was a testament to our impact. People wanted to learn more, to “lean in” to our message.

Over 140 years of women at Lilly

The intrepid women leading this charge at Lilly are actually part of a 140-year legacy of female trailblazers. Take a look at our company history, and see that Lilly began as a place where women could “lean in” to their careers.

When Colonel Eli Lilly opened the doors of his small manufacturing facility over 140 years ago, one of the first ever employees was bottler and finisher, Caroline Kruger.

Fast forward to today and we are recognised worldwide as a company that empowers women with a real culture of inclusion. From the National Association of Female Executives naming Lilly a Top 50 Company for Executive Women and being one of the 50 Leading Companies for Women in Asia Pacific to decades on the Working Mothers Magazine’s 100 Best Companies List, these awards highlight our global commitment to empowering women at work.

Just recently, we won the prestigious 2019 Catalyst Award for our bold and forward-thinking initiatives to create inclusive workplaces where women can advance. Go Lilly! Our CEO, Dave Ricks, has been leading the charge.

Dave set a goal to increase the number of women in management by more than 10 percent in two years. At the end of 2018, we hit that goal. Globally, women leaders at Lilly rose from 38 percent to 42 percent. And the number of women on our Executive Committee climbed from 29 to 43 percent.

While we have yet to reach full gender parity, in General Colonel’s words, we are trying to “make it better and better”. The number of women promoted and hired at Lilly continues to grow.

Be the change with Lilly

As a woman scientist and researcher, I am proud to work at a company that champions women. Our achievements clearly show that realising a more just and equitable workplace requires us all to step up and take action.

We need to be the change we want to see in the workplace and the world. When you join Lilly, you truly can.