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Q&A with Barbro C. Ehnbom

barbr c ehnbom

Barbro C Ehnbom was awarded “Årest Läkemedelsprofil” or “Life Science Profile of the Year” in October this year. Ingrid Lund asked her five questions about life science today and in the future.

How can Sweden and the US have the most effective exchange within life science in the future?

“Sweden is good at innovation and research; they are not as good at building and financing companies. Sweden has a one-payer healthcare system that is at the forefront. It’s easier and faster to understand what’s working and getting good results in healthcare. Something the US could adopt. The US on the other hand has access to venture capital, can build companies and they are of course the single largest market for Swedish companies.”

What is the most exciting cooperation between life science and the finance industry right now?

“Maybe alternatives to the traditional finance industry like family offices, venture philanthropy, patient organizations and crowdfunding. In this regard Sweden has a lot to learn from America. In the last few years Swedish businesses have become more aware of the importance of sustainability, both for the environment and for society. Terms like “corporate social responsibility”, “corporate environmental responsibility” and “corporate philanthropy” are in step with our times.”

What do you see as the biggest obstacles still for women to reach top managerial positions within the pharmaceutical industry and life science?

“It’s still difficult to live a balanced life that includes family and time to recuperate. Sweden is at the top when it comes to equality between men and women but unfortunately it is still not OK or financially possible to hire help with childcare or household duties. Of course there is also the infamous glass ceiling; in many situations it is difficult as a woman to break through in a male-dominated environment. Though I myself am advocating that it is an advantage!”

Barbro continues to explain that in the private sector many men still prefer a mediocre male colleague. That is also a reason why affirmative action in favor of women has proven not only to increase the number of women but also the skill level in board rooms. Moreover, Barbro means that the increasing diversity is a positive spiral, people are becoming more comfortable with each other’s differences, comfortable with change, and are daring to choose partners on the basis of competence and suitability for the job.

“Swedish finance companies have very few women partners and there are still few women that are life science analysts. I think there needs to be more awareness when recruiting to attract finance- and tech-girls to these companies. For example Annika Falkengren succeeded with the Swedish bank SEB. The talent is out there, but we need to attract capable women and most of all create an environment adapted to female executives that will work long-term.”

What advice do you have to a young female scientist today, who would like to go far in the life science industry in the future?

“A shining example success is of course Emmanuelle Charpentier who was our keynote speaker at SALSS and is mentioned as a potential Nobel Prize winner for her discovery of the CRISPR-Cas9 system. The key to her success seems to be her friendship with another female scientist who together pushed the project forward. Not everyone is so lucky but a piece of advice is to get a sort of “sponsor”; a person who believes in your long-term success, who has your back and who can promote you outwards.”

Do you have any exciting news you can reveal to us about the upcoming SALSS summit in August?

“Value-based care coupled with IT means new investment opportunities. I think that can be really exciting and we have contacted some of the world leaders in these areas which we will announce shortly.”