Kiran Mazumdar Shaw: "Don’t Be Diffident or Feel Daunted or Inferior. You Can Rise Above"

Kiran Mazumdar Shaw, Executive Chairperson of Biocon, is one of Gender STI's #WomenInLeadership nominees.

Kiran Mazumdar Shaw was nominated for Gender STI's #WomenInLeadership Campaign, which celebrates women leaders in science, technology and innovation, by the Euro India Research Centre (EIRC) in India.

Mazumdar Shaw is the Executive Chairperson of Biocon, India’s largest biopharmaceutical company. She is a first-generation entrepreneur and global business leader with over four decades of experience in biotechnology. Fueled by her passion, she started her biotech journey in 1978 from her garage in India. Today, that journey is changing lives for the better across the globe. She is regarded as an unconventional thinker with many firsts to her credit. Under her aegis, Biocon delivers on the promise of making medicines accessible and affordable to millions of patients worldwide.

She spoke to Gender STI about her experience as a woman leader in honor of International Women's Day 2021.

Can you tell us a bit about your job and your responsibilities?

I am a biotech entrepreneur who founded my company in 1978. I am Executive Chairperson of my group of companies and responsible for steering strategic directions across businesses.

Did you face any challenges on your journey to become a woman leader? How did you overcome them?

I faced huge credibility challenges in the early part of my entrepreneurial journey which were largely gender-related biases. I overcame them by taking them head on. By demonstrating business success, I could allay the risks associated with my gender, age and the novelty of my business.

What goals do you have as a leader?

To develop the next cadre of smart and empathetic leadership in our organization that focuses on diversity and inclusion and wants to deliver on SDGs and ESG.

How would you describe the gender balance in decision making in science, technology and innovation (STI)?

STI is beginning to see the emergence of strong women leaders – Gagandeep Kang (CMC, Vellore), Renu Swarup (Secy DBT), Tessie Thomas (ISRO), Priya Abraham (ICMR), etc. The trajectory is upwards and I am confident we will get to good gender balance soon. Internationally, more women are also winning Nobel prizes. In the past, women were over looked or excluded because of gender. For example, Marie Curie was excluded initially but the committee was forced to reconsider thanks to her husband. Rosalind Franklin was the most vulgar example of gender exclusion. She ought to have shared the Nobel with Watson, Crick and Wilkins.

What would you tell young girls and women who would like to become leaders in their professional fields one day?

Go for it! Don’t be diffident or feel daunted or inferior. It’s all perception and illusion, which you can rise above.

As you may know, the Gender STI project focuses on promoting gender equality in international cooperation in STI. Do you have any ideas on how we could promote gender equality in this area?

Equal pay for equal work. Appoint more women in managerial and leadership roles. Have cross-functional teams where women are well represented.

What do you think needs to be done to increase the number of women leaders in STI?

We clearly see that entry level is not the problem. The funnel effect is what needs to be stopped. Focus on policies that incentivize both men and women to support gender balance initiatives.

Follow Gender STI’s #WomenInLeadership campaign on TwitterLinkedIn and Facebook for more great interviews. Join the conversation using #WomenInLeadership, #IWD2021 and #GenderSTI.

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