Monday 8 March is International Women’s Day. At Galapapos, we value women’s contribution and celebrate women’s achievements, on this day and every day. Currently, women account for 60% of our workforce and 4 out of the 8 members on our Board of Directors are women. In 2020, 58% of our new hires were female employees.
In celebration of International Women’s Day and to highlight female leadership at our organization, we asked Annelies Missotten, Senior Vice President Human Resources at Galapagos, for her insights on how to support women in their careers and to share her own experience as a a senior female leader in a pioneering biotech.
I: Interviewer A: Annelies
I: Hi, Annelies. Thank you for taking the time to talk to us.
A: Sure, it’s my pleasure.
I: We know that you’ve been working at Galapagos for more than 3 years now as Head of HR. Tell us a bit more about your career journey.
A: At the start of my career, I gained experience across several sectors, from telecoms to the FMCG industry, before spending most of my career in the pharmaceutical industry. Working in different industries has helped me gain a large variety of insights, and this breadth of experience is still very valuable to me in how I operate today.
My first role in HR was as a Learning & Development professional, which I enjoyed a lot. Following the advice of my mentor at the time, I deliberately chose to evolve through different areas of expertise within HR to broaden my knowledge and experience, in both European and global organizations. Gaining cross-functional experience within different business sectors and geographical areas helps you become a strong functional leader, in my view.
I: Which part of your professional experience do you enjoy the most?
A: At Galapagos, I have particularly enjoyed building a diverse, professional, and passionate HR team, recognized by the business for the value they bring and their human touch. Attracting, recruiting, and retaining great talents to enable Galapagos’ ambition to become an integrated biopharma company is truly a great challenge. My key focus has been on our employee experience, from day one in the company, and maintaining that by building a compelling employee value proposition. It has been a great learning journey for me as well. As the saying goes, Rome was not built in a day. I always welcome new ideas on what do and what to do differently.
The past few months have put an even sharper lens on what we do to maintain this positive employee experience and so, we invested in initiatives to keep our workforce highly engaged and stay true to our company culture: allowing straightforward and safe discussions, enabling creativity and fast decision-making so people feel they can truly make things happen. All this strengthens our capacity to innovate in science, and in doing so, we are making a difference to patients’ lives.
I: Have you also experienced challenges and had to make choices that are particularly important to you as a career-driven woman?
A: An important, conscious, choice I’ve made throughout my career is to keep in mind I have several roles in life: next to being a professional, I am also a mother, a partner, a daughter and so on. Back in the early days of my career, it took guts to schedule my workdays a bit flexibly, but I did what was needed to deliver well against the expectations of my job, while preserving family moments and my work-life balance. I have always recommended that everyone do the same where possible, to decide what’s important to you and how to make your work-life balance work for you.
I: So, talking about flexibility and work-life balance, are there any initiatives that you’re particularly proud of when it comes to Galapagos supporting women at work?
A: I am proud of our ongoing efforts to increase flexibility to enable better work-life integration. In the past years, we improved our parental leave policies in many countries. Our aim is to support our employees when they become a parent, father or mother, as it can be a big life change. I am a true believer that a balanced approach, which supports both men and women in key life events, is beneficial to supporting women at work.
I: This year’s theme for International Women’s Day is #ChooseToChallenge. What does this mean to you personally?
A: To me, #ChooseToChallenge means challenging the so-called “status quo”. So, it’s about daring to take a different perspective and not just following the trends and conform. Think of the true value you bring in all you do. For me, it’s more of a mindset. If you challenge respectfully and in a constructive way, it can provide new insights and perspectives, which contributes to better solutions and outcomes for the team. If you don’t, you lose an opportunity for greater benefit. So, choose to challenge but challenge smartly.
I: We hear a lot about gender balance these days, but isn’t there more to it than that? How do you see this at Galapagos?
A: Finding a sound balance where men and women can be complementary to each other is of the utmost importance. But it’s not just about having gender balance. It’s about having the right mix of talent, personalities, backgrounds, nationalities, sexuality, styles, etc. and to create an inclusive environment where everyone can be their best selves. As we have grown in recent years, we have ensured that there is a balanced candidate pipeline for all new vacancies, so that both women and men have equal opportunities. Also, in our cycles of promotion and lateral moves for growth and during salary review processes, we apply equity checks to ensure decisions are fair and support equality.
I: As we wrap up this interview, what career advice would you like to share with future generations of professional women?
A: I would advise future generations of professional women to be open minded and to have the courage to stand up for what is important to them. Also, it’s important to seek advice and look for mentors or coaches along the way. In my career, my professional moves were always driven by the curiosity to learn more, to expand my horizons, and to expose myself to new challenges and environments. My personal goal is to contribute to a healthy HR vision that allows people to be their best self and align to their personal purpose. So, dare to explore, and follow your heart and intuition. Those will always lead you in the right direction.
I: Thank you so much for your time, Annelies. I hoped you enjoyed this interview. And happy International Women’s Day!
A: Thank you.