MIDD+ 2023 Panelists Discuss How to Increase Gender Equity for Women in Science

More than 150 people from around the world gathered virtually this past February for a panel discussion about how to move the needle on gender equity for women in science.

Hosted by Simulations Plus, Inc. (Nasdaq: SLP) as part of their third annual Model-Informed Drug Development (MIDD+) conference, the speakers looked noticeably different than years prior: men were invited to sit on the panel and add their voices to the conversation. According to Jill Fiedler-Kelly, President of the Cognigen division at Simulations Plus and the panel session leader, this represented a critical shift in approach for addressing gender-based inequities. “It is our consensus opinion that the inclusion of men and their active involvement in addressing the challenges women in science face is an essential component in moving the needle on gender equity in a positive direction,” she said.

Panelists discussed what it takes for both men and women to be authentic allies in the workplace, and how to foster psychologically safe spaces that support women at all stages of their careers. Some of the recommendations included pushing for policy changes at work, such as flexible hours and parental leave policies that are inclusive. Others involved encouraging female employees to apply for jobs they may not feel 100 percent qualified for, recommending their capabilities, and providing support to help ensure they can succeed and continue their professional growth.

“Endorsement can be really impactful,” Fiedler-Kelly said. “Helping people to see what others are capable of and to make connections is something we can all easily do for each other, men and women alike.” Panelist Scott Siler, Chief Science Officer of the DILIsym division of Simulations Plus, discussed his increased awareness regarding issues faced by women, thanks to interactions with female colleagues over the years. Siler emphasized the importance of listening, observing, supporting and evolving. “Collectively, our objective is to create an environment in which all women – all people – are comfortable enough to realize their goals and aspirations,” he said.

Although some individual companies are making progress toward gender equity—Lindsay Luke, the Director of Human Resources at Simulations Plus, noted 52 percent of Simulations Plus scientists are female—there remains work to be done to even the playing field, especially for women of color in STEM fields.

Supporting women in the workforce is more critical than ever. Panelists noted that during the COVID-19 pandemic, disruptions to school and childcare led more women to leave the workforce than men—and the gender inequity in childcare responsibilities reinforced inequity in the workforce, with both short- and long-term economic implications for women. “We need to critically examine the policies we have in place, with an eye toward inclusivity, and over-communicate the positive benefits of greater diversity on company culture,” Fiedler-Kelly said. “Sometimes, small changes in how and where work is conducted can help us meet the different needs of our staff and ensure everyone has the ability to succeed.”

If you’d like to watch the full Women in Science panel discussion from MIDD+ 2023, it is available to watch on demand: Women in Pharmaceutical Science Roundtable: “Strategies for Moving the Needle on Gender Equity”. If you’re interested in working at Simulations Plus, rated in 2022 as a Best Company for Women by Comparably, visit the Career Center.