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At CSG Talent, our life sciences recruitment team work closely with leading scientists in their field and influential figures across the industry. We interviewed Dominique Gales-Badea, Field Application Scientist at Akadeum to hear about her career journey from academic science to a commercial setting, the challenges she has encountered and the positive steps forward the industry has experienced in improving diversity, and the exposure of women in science.
Dominique always had an interest in science growing up but was unsure on the career paths available. Her passion began in 9th grade when she realised her love for science in an earth science lesson. Through schooling and extra-curricular science related activities, Dominique continued to develop her interest within science and as a result she embarked on not only an undergraduate degree, but continued through the academic route completing her masters, and then a PhD.
Dominque committed to her PhD in Integrative Biosciences at Tuskegee University, where she started in 2012 and graduated in 2017. Her training focused on specific cancers, on specific cancers including Colon and Breast cancer where she researched how the tumour microenvironment has effect on cancer progression and drug response.
Following this, Dominque followed the academic research path and took an opportunity to work at Morehouse School of Medicine to pursue her Post-Doctoral Fellowship position. After realising this path wasn’t allowing her to have the impact she was craving from her career, she built her networks, collaborated with partners outside of the academic field and pursued and successfully took on her first commercial role at Metaclipse Therapeutics.
After over two years in this role and working throughout the pandemic to continue significant research trials, Dominique was ready to branch out and build on her commercial experience in a new role.
“Built on my interest and love for science, and more specifically immunotherapy, I’ve also been driven by personal connections and the direct impact of cancer diagnosis’s both in the early stages of my academic journey, and my professional career.
Having close friends and family members experience diagnosis and treatment of rare cancers, especially within the African American community has encouraged me to pursue this line of work to contribute to the science behind effective treatments for rare cancers. Seeing the rapid decline of conditions and reaching the end of effective treatment plans inspired me to commit to make an impact and research these areas to improve the success of treatment.
Progressing from academic science to commercial science I was driven by the true impact I could have in enhancing the bedside manner part of the science and active clinical trials.”
Throughout her career, Dominique has experienced challenges in getting exposure and experience within the commercial field, with high volumes of applications for limited opportunities.
Dominque shared her own experiences of challenges faced throughout her career as a woman in science: “As a female in science it’s often harder than for my male counterparts. I’ve had situations where I have walked into a room to deliver a presentation and experienced questioning my credibility of delivering training or seminars. During meetings with c-suite professionals, I’ve shared insights and knowledge into my specialist areas and on occasion. Howwever, I was looked down upon due to me being a women in science as it’s deemed as less credible.”
“I’ve been fortunate having a lot of female (and male) mentors throughout my career. A lot of my professors were female and many of which I am still in contact with today. Dr. Deloris Alexander has played a major role in my career in science, giving direction and guidance at many stages and someone I have always aspired to.
I know how important role models and mentors have been for my own career development and this is something I actively promote myself, mentoring other women in the field to support their journey within science. I felt I missed the opportunity for this in my early stages throughout my undergraduate phase, so I especially focus on mentoring others at this stage to bridge the gap I feel was lacking at the time for myself.”
While progress has been made to increase the representation of women in science, unfortunately a large proportion are still heavily driven by men. It’s refreshing when we see women in senior level positions such as VPs, CEOs or General Managers but there’s still not enough women in these positions.
“I think it’s important for women to see more women in the field, increased mentorship, and exposure. While there are so many paths within science, more awareness needs to be delivered to educate women on the opportunities and paths available to them. Having this knowledge can allow women to ask the right questions, source the most relevant opportunities and understand what they need to achieve this path. Having a great support network and women to aspire towards is a huge part in encouraging more women to develop a career in life sciences.”
Increased awareness and educating younger generations on career opportunities that are available within science can have a huge impact on the numbers of women entering the academic route to form a career within life sciences.
Being a working mother, it can change priorities, limit flexibility in a role and result in career breaks. All of which can pose barriers for women either re-starting their career or working in senior level positions with the desired amount of flexibility, understanding and support required to work to their full potential.
“After becoming a mother, I was keen to find an opportunity which allowed me more flexibility, less commitment to travel and that would enable me to be more present in my daughters life. I was approached by Lexie at CSG Talent to discuss potential job opportunities. I had conversations with both Lexie and Ken at Akadeum, they were keen to increase their diversity and to learn how to successfully attract more diverse people to their business. I was eager to find a role to fit my family dynamic at an organisation I could align with and after conversations with both CS Talent and Akadeum, I accepted a position as Field Application Scientist.”
Across the life sciences and healthcare sector, many women either leave their career when they reach a stage in their life where they may start a family, or when they choose to return to work following having a child. Dominique shared her experience on what she has seen due to the industry:
“There are women who struggle to get back on track with their careers following starting a family and this is largely due to the lack of empathy in returning to work, maternity/paternity policies and flexible working practices. It’s such a significant life event to experience. Highly successful women could return back to work and experience career advancements if there were better support structures in place across the industry. While there are some organisations who are forward-thinking in their approach and fully support this stage of a women’s career, it is disheartening to see this still be a challenge for women working in science.”
Dominique hopes to have an impact in this area throughout her career where she can make a change and ensure women and men have the right infrastructure in place to support this significant life stage, without impacting career development. Working with organisations and sharing insights she hopes to change the way businesses support women and make the work environment safer, more flexible and less judgement.
As we near the end of 2023, we know there have been significant improvements in recent years compared to 20-30 years ago. More women are taking on roles within science, and there is gradually more exposure to younger age demographics to raise awareness of the potential career paths available in science, and the impact you can make in playing your part. There is also a considerable difference in the number of women at leadership or executive level within life sciences, which in time will increase as more women see leaders they can aspire towards.
We asked Dominique how she feels about the progress made in increasing the representation of women in science and the positive steps forward.
“It’s better, changing and improving. I’m seeing more women in great, senior level positions within life sciences. While there are still negative experiences and gender disparities, there are positive experiences to share and we are excelling. It is great to walk into a room and see more women sitting at the table in senior and influential positions. More women taking on keynote speaker positions at huge events. There is still a lot of work to do but we are pushing forward. I am glad that I’m in a position where women and young girls can look up and see the opportunities available for women in science, knowing they can make a difference and a huge impact in science across the world.”
Our life science recruitment team work closely with leading life science organisations from small start ups to large global corporations eager to improve the diversity across the business and source highly experienced women in science to increase the representation of women across the industry. If you’re keen to share your own experiences of women in science, please get in touch here.