During a recent interview with Elizabeth (Liz) Barrett, CEO of Novartis Oncology, for an upcoming feature in Life Science Leader magazine, we focused on her as a leader, not the fact that she is a female leader. But as can sometimes happen, gender differences can work their way into a conversation. For example, we were talking about career advancement, and I was wondering if there were any times during her career that she opted to not take a promotion. I was curious if she found (like many often do), that if you turn down one promotion you might see fewer opportunities being offered in the future.
She recalled a conversation with a male mentor while working at Johnson & Johnson. “We were talking about talent management and promotional opportunities, and I remember him saying, ‘I wasn't sure what you would want to do with your family situation and everything.’”
She explained to him that it was important to her and all women in the workplace that they be given the option for promotions and advancement regardless of their “family situation.” “Yes, being a woman and a mother has certainly influenced some of the decisions I have made involving my career. But what I don't want you to do is to assume that I can’t or won’t do something because of my family situation,” she stated. “I’ll make those decisions on my own based on where I am at that point in my life and my career.” She adds that, in big organizations, people sometimes make assumptions on an employee’s behalf, and often these assumptions involve women with families and working husbands.
When it comes to career advancement, she advises anyone — male or female — to consider the move in the context of what is best for your life in the long term, not the short term as so many people do. “If you’re not moving ahead in an organization, maybe it’s time to make a change to one that will support you at that time of your life,” she says.
Read the rest of the interview with Barrett in the November 2018 issue of Life Science Leader.