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UCB joins ‘Women’s Day’ celebration

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    I had the privilege of celebrating International Women’s Day at the NYSE Euronext Brussels stock exchange as part of the ‘Bold Women, Inspiring Futures’ initiative.

    Women rang the opening bell on stock exchanges in New York, Amsterdam, Paris, Lisbon and Brussels and it was great for UCB to be invited to join the celebration.

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    From the left to the right:
    Chris Verhaegen and Inge Basteleurs


    Of course it’s not the first time this year that UCB has had reason to celebrate at the Brussels stock exchange, but it prompted me to reflect on the contribution our company can make to the lives of women.

    Our business is based on finding solutions to patients’ problems. Some of the diseases our medicines treat affect more women than men.

    Think of lupus, for example, where a large majority of patients are female; or post-menopausal osteoporosis where women make up 100% of the patient population. Even rheumatoid arthritis and restless-leg syndrome are known to affect women more frequently than they affect men.

    That’s why we also devote resources to Corporate Society Responsibility (CSR) programmes which support female patients. We are also conscious of supporting families and caregivers – a demanding role often taken on by women.

    I feel that pharmaceutical companies like ours have a vocation to improve accessibility to medicines and also to dispel myths which can lead to women being ostracised because they have a disease which is poorly understood.

    In some cultures, we found that people continue to believe that women who develop epilepsy are bewitched and excluded from their own communities.  This prompted us to make educational movies about epilepsy. To my mind, this was a living example of the ‘patient-centric’ mission we espouse.

    Workplace and diversity
    UCB is also working towards greater equality and diversity in the workplace. Highly-qualified women have earned several of the senior appointments and promotions announced by the company in recent times.

    Today, in boardrooms across the world, the leadership potential of women is more likely to be recognised than in the past. At UCB, we are actively looking for female directors with the right profile who can add value to our senior management team. If the destination is equality, then the journey continues, and we’re on the right road.

    It’s a myth that there are too few women in the corporate world with the right experience and skills. To me, women are less well networked and thus less visible – a phenomenon which has helped feed the myth. This is changing fast thanks to projects like Women on Board, an initiative designed to improve access for women to director-level positions.

    The path to equality may be long but, having looked at what UCB does for its patients and for its employees, I find cause for optimism. There’s no danger of complacency as there is plenty of work to do but there have been enough success stories to inspire further progress.
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