Life Sciences

Five questions for a mother returning to work in science

After a sabbatical, Dr Hazel Jones, returned to work as an executive with Cambridge-based Enhance3D Genomics, which has been developing an unparalleled platform integrating proprietary molecular biology technologies with machine learning to maximise the commercial potential of 3D genomics. Her answers may help to inspire other woman in a similar situation.



Q. What has been your greatest accomplishment? 

A. As a female, not giving up after going back to work with three kids under three-years-old and negative end-of-month finances! I recently took a six-month sabbatical to get menopause symptoms under control, focus on myself and travel, whilst helping my kids through exams and planning my next career step. The accomplishment was being hired as COO of a biotech firm and being promoted to CEO within six weeks.

Q. What types of skills do women in the pharmaceutical industry need to develop or improve upon?  

A. Confidence and willingness to step-up, be seen, be noticed and not being afraid of failing the first time.

Q. How important is it to educate and mentor emerging female leaders in the industry?

 A. It’s really important that young and mid-level career scientists get mentored by quite senior female and male leaders. I’ve been very lucky that my early line-managers inspired me. I have also sought career guidance from a range of individuals to support my own journey. This has definitely influenced my career decisions, both with advice plus preparation and also in making big bold moves when typically women question whether they have the experience.

Q. How important is it that young scientists observe women as mentors, speakers and leaders in their field? How much would that helps in feeling a stronger sense of belonging and part of the team?

A. I think general diversity in leaders is important. Scientific evidence shows diverse teams accomplish more. The awareness is changing and in some fields it does feel like having women present is the norm. Using females to inspire school children, particularly those making subject choices, and impressing on them the belief that passion and interest should drive their decisions, without worrying about any preconceptions.

Q. Finally, in your opinion, what can we do to increase female participation in the pharmaceutical/biotech field?

A. Early education of the possibilities, a celebration of strong female leaders and an understanding of how to get on the accelerated development programmes.