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Advocating, Advising and Advancing Women in Advanced Therapies – the Importance of the WIAT Initiative

13 April 2022
Marlin Frechette, CQO at Fujifilm Irvine Scientific describes her experience as a mentor as part of Phacilitate’s Women in Advanced Therapies initiative. Explaining what the platform can offer mentors and mentees alike, and why WIAT, as a platform to advocate for women in advanced therapies, is important as we strive to place more women in industry leading positions.

Could you please introduce yourself and your role with Fujifilm Irvine Scientific?

My name is Marlin Frechette. I am the Chief Quality and Compliance Officer at Fujifilm Irvine Scientific. Fujifilm Irvine Scientific is a medical device organization that offers a diverse portfolio of advanced cell culture media solutions for biopharmaceuticals, vaccines and cell and gene therapies, and provides a complete workflow solution for assisted reproductive technologies. As the CQO with over 30 years of industry experience, I am responsible for the company’s global compliance within the quality systems, global regulatory, corporate compliance, and environmental health and safety.

Could you tell us a little about your experiences of being a woman in the advanced therapies industry?

My career and history have had very humble beginnings. I was fortunate to enter into a job in a company that believed and invested in me, and after hard work, dedication and loyalty, I now hold a seat at the executive table, where visions become reality and decisions are made. I have a passion for science, specifically for advanced therapies. We serve this industry by providing the components they need to make their therapies a success. Being a woman in the advanced therapies industry has been a wonderful experience for me, however it is my desire and vision to see more women joining me at the leadership level, hence the reason I joined WIAT as a mentor.

Could you please describe your involvement in Phacilitate’s WIAT and what you may have gained, or what others can gain from this network?

With Phacilitate WIAT, I participate with other amazing women to discuss challenges for women in advanced therapies and ways to overcome the challenges. We share experiences and learn from each other. Our group is diversified enough that we learn from women that are already in leadership and decision making positions, as well as from women who are at the beginning of mature positions within their organizations.

I had the greatest opportunity to be a mentor for a short period of time and I truly enjoyed the opportunity to be of service and to provide my mentee with real life and learned experiences. Whilst being a mentor, I had an opportunity to learn many things from my mentee, who was very passionate, intelligent and had a high energy, with the desire to advance her career in advanced therapies. I was very proud to see that she made big changes and advances in her career within her organization during the period of time that we met.

What are some of the key challenges you have faced being a woman in advanced therapies?

The challenge is that women are still underrepresented in executive positions where decisions are being made in advanced therapies.

How would you like to see opportunities for women in advanced therapies be improved?

I would like to see more opportunities created for women, providing them with development and succession plans so that they have a clear path to follow for their professional development, with the goal to reach higher executive positions.

Looking forward, what are some of your key suggestions for career progression and towards improving the proportion of women in leadership positions in advanced therapies?

  • Create a timeline plan to get women to the next level of leadership, from 1 year, 2 year to 5 years’ plans…
  • Identify succession leadership positions and put a plan in place
  • Create professional development plans
  • Monitor progress
  • Promote

What would be key advice you would share with a women starting out in advanced therapies?

  • Work diligently at learning the industry, your company’s business and how your company is positioned within the industry.
  • Make your own plan for advancement, create a vision for where you want to see yourself within your organization the within the advanced therapies industry.
  • Sell your vision and your plan.
  • Work hard at achieving your goals and plans for your professional development.

Why are initiatives like WIAT important for supporting women building careers in advanced therapies?

Platforms like WIAT are very important, as they provide women with a forum for discussing issues and concerns in a safe and encouraging environment. Women are able to help each other by sharing experiences and tools that help them, while ascending towards higher positions as leaders in science.

Why is it important for women and allies to speak up in support and to raise awareness about the issues women are facing in this space?

Research has shown that women are underrepresented as leaders in advanced therapies and similar areas of science. By raising awareness and speaking out about the reasons for why this might be happening in an open and safe environment, women can discuss strategies on how to overcome the current challenges. There are many opportunities awaiting these deserving, intelligent and hardworking individuals. The more the issue is discussed, the more awareness, interest and desire to raise women to the places they deserve to be will be inspired.

Want to learn more about Phacilitate’s Women in Advanced Therapies program?

Download the eBook here >>

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