Eli Lilly: Pioneers in supporting women in leadership

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Pharma giant announces that it “will continue” its flexible, inclusive approach post-Covid


Since it began operating in Ireland in 1978, Eli Lilly and Company’s Kinsale campus has significantly grown in size and stature.

Today, it is home to both biotech and chemical synthesis manufacturing plants, a workforce of 1,500 (1,000 employees and 500 contract staff) and is one of the company’s key manufacturing sites globally.

Since the beginning of their operations, Lilly has pioneered diversity, equality, and inclusion amongst their employees through a flexible, employee-focussed work culture.

Noreen Lynch is currently Senior Director of Technical Services and Manufacturing Science at Lilly. She first began her career at Lilly 21 years ago and recalls being made aware of their forward-thinking approach long before starting her position.

She says: “When I was finishing my PhD, I had already heard that they had a great reputation for inclusivity, and an almost family-type culture, but it wasn’t until I joined that I realised how fundamental it was to the business. It really is an inclusive and welcoming culture at Lilly.”

In addition to their focus on inclusivity, employee satisfaction and professional growth and development are consistently outlined as top priorities for Lilly.

Kinsale Biotech Plant Manager Lorraine O’Shea joined Lilly as a process engineer in 2007, and she explains that her journey has led to international career opportunities with regular overseas visits and assignments over the years, which she says has assisted her in growing and shaping her career.

Taking advantage of these international opportunities, Ms O’Shea has spent nearly seven years working for Lilly on assignments in the United States.

“Working at Lilly has afforded me more than I had ever imagined with my career if I am honest. The thinking [with international assignments] is that it supports you to learn different elements of the business and share what we know here in Kinsale with other sites too. This helps create a unified “Team Lilly” across the entire manufacturing network with a global view of the world,” she says.

Catherine Giblin joined Lilly in 1999 and is currently the Director of Environmental, Health and Safety at the company. Ms Giblin also attributes her professional development to the company, pushing her to take her career in directions she wouldn’t previously have considered.

“Often, as women we think because we do not meet a particular job spec, or we don’t tick all the boxes, we won’t apply for it. Well, here they say, ‘you actually have the capability’, or ‘we see the capability’. And that support is really encouraging.”

Reflecting on her own experience since she began her career, she says that support and flexibility were offered “from the get-go.”

She adds: “Just as I accepted my first job at Lilly, I found out I was pregnant. The first person I told said, ‘That’s wonderful news, do you know we have these flexible policies in place? And we’re delighted for you’. Since then, I have had my family and recently had the opportunity to take a 12-month career break and returned to work full time last October.”

Female representation in the Pharma and STEM industries has grown exponentially over the past 20 years, but Lilly’s female leaders speak strongly of the company’s non-gendered approach to careers and opportunities, highlighting that Lilly policies on diversity and inclusion have always been ahead of the curve.

Ms O’Shea commented: “When I joined 15 years ago, I think Lilly were already ahead of their time. We had leaders at the time, and I don’t think they ever saw male or female, it was always a case of ‘who was the right person for the job?’.”

Ms Lynch said: “I can honestly say gender has never been an issue or a consideration to my career. There is huge value placed on female leadership at Lilly. As a woman, and as a mother, you are aware that there might be potential challenges but honestly it has never been an issue or an inhibition, there has just been support.”

“I feel the encouragement by Lilly to take on different site assignments outside your comfort zone really gets you thinking about doing something different and exploring different areas.”

Currently, in the campus leadership team of eleven, eight are female.

Visibility for females in the workplace is another major priority for Lilly — and they have well-established mentorship and training programmes in place — which have been cited by Ms Lynch, Ms O’Shea and Ms Giblin as invaluable support tools.

Speaking about the future of their workforce and more flexible options for employees within Lilly, Ms O’Shea said the pandemic required the company to prove they were “capable of working in really unprecedented situations and still deliver”, adding that the company will continue to provide a flexible work approach and a focus on encouraging employees to develop a healthy work-life balance.

She added: “Already as we move forward, that’s become a huge focus — to give people that flexibility and more opportunities to balance things out.

“Covid-19 demonstrated to us that the traditional boundaries we had around the 9-5 working day clearly don’t exist. It’s just going to be a different way of working.

Ms O’Shea concludes: “At Lilly there is a huge focus on the team and how we work together. How to get the best of both – balancing flexible working and ensuring that we always have that team dynamic is what’s going to be the next step to continued success.”

For more details, head to www.lilly.ie/careers.

For more on latest news in the hiring space, make sure you checkout our recruitment news section.

If you are a recent graduate or just someone seeking to explore the job market, make sure to check out the different recruitment opportunities with Recruit Ireland:


PHOTO: Noreen Lynch, Lorraine O’Shea, Catherine Giblin, Ciara Hood, Nathania Lahive and Judith Macklin, 6 of the 8 women who make up the leadership team at Eli Lilly’s biopharmaceutical manufacturing campus in Kinsale, are pictured above. Missing from the photo are Carmel Condon and Jennifer Massey.


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