Parexel supports the development of innovative new medicines to improve the health of patients. They provides services to help life science and biopharmaceutical clients worldwide transform scientific discoveries into new treatments. From clinical trials to regulatory and consulting services to commercial and market access, Parexel’s therapeutic, technical and functional ability is underpinned by a deep conviction in what they do. Parexel’s Oncology Center of Excellence combines early advisory core services of medical, regulatory, biostatistics and genomic/biomarker expertise with a multi-disciplinary team of oncology experts and key technology platform partnerships to bring breakthrough treatments to market faster.

Make Gender Equality a Part of Your Daily Life, Sanjay Vyas Advises Corporate Leaders

Sanjay Vyas, Parexel
For over 22 years, Sanjay Vyas has worked in several major cities across the world, in vibrant economies like India, Singapore, Brazil and the United States of America. Over the years, he has worked in varied fields of global and regional P&L management, logistics and supply chain management, sa...
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For over 22 years, Sanjay Vyas has worked in several major cities across the world, in vibrant economies like India, Singapore, Brazil and the United States of America. Over the years, he has worked in varied fields of global and regional P&L management, logistics and supply chain management, sales and marketing, product development, operations and people management.

He feels fortunate to have experienced an excellent blend of leadership, teamwork, multi-cultural and complex business scenarios ranging from a multinational to a multi-locational organisation. After living and working in seven other countries, he returned to his native country, India, as the country head for biopharmaceutical services company, Parexel where he is serving as the executive vice president, managing director India as well as the global SBU head for clinical supplies and logistics.

Highly passionate about getting new therapies to the market with focus on patient centric innovations, he says he fits right in at Paraxel. In all his corporate outings, he has been a strong proponent of diversity, equity and inclusion. In fact, he often describes himself as a servant leader who is consistently trying to bring in a fine balance of head, heart and gut. He spoke to Women Icons Network about the importance of this balance and how to bring it about.

Gender Equality at Home

Sanjay thinks that the key skill to effective gender diversity policies is one’s innate ability to understand, accept and genuinely demonstrate how they embrace diversity as a part of their daily life. It’s not enough to talk about it at a superficial level, he says, but believing in it to the point that it becomes a part of one’s DNA and is visible to others in every walk of their workplace experience.

It comes as no surprise that he and his wife often engage their two daughters in gender diversity dialogues as part of dinner table conversations. Even when it comes to completing domestic chores, the family doesn’t bring in any kind of gender biases and treats everyone equally. If there are any subconscious slip-ups, the girls (aged 10 and 14) are quick to point them out, making sure that gender equality becomes a way of life for them.

“When this acceptance happens at the highest level in an organisation, it becomes easier to make it a part of one’s own daily life and then embed it throughout the entire organisation,” he states.

Gender Diversity at Workplace

While insisting upon the importance of individual beliefs in bringing about gender diversity into the workplace, Sanjay says the industry needs to come together to formulate the right policies in this direction. He also thinks that for the best outcome, all stakeholders need to be vocal about their opinions. He mentions that they have been witnessing an uptick in this trend in the last few years.

For him, a company’s commitment to gender diversity should not be restricted to talks and policies, but rather lived and quantified with facts and figures. “It starts with an inclusion attitude and culture at all levels in the organization and is not just about being vocal but being effective in implementing policies into actions at all levels,” he says.

Despite his own beliefs, there have been many instances wherein he has witnessed female colleagues being in uncomfortable or offensive situations. He feels the best way to deal with them is by calling it out then and there, to address it immediately and to articulate a zero-tolerance harassment policy loud and clear. In the more serious situations, he doesn’t hesitate to engage the organisation’s POSH (Prevention of Sexual Harassment) committee to ensure that strict actions are taken, including termination, if needed.

Parexel Approach

Sanjay proudly declares that Parexel takes gender diversity very seriously. With a dedicated Diversity, Equity and Inclusion leader at the global level it is supported by in-country DEI and culture committees. Some in-house initiatives that were floated with the aim of coaching, mentoring and developing women leaders within the organisation include the Wisdom Circle Mentorship Program, Women in Leadership Program, MARC (Men Advocating Real Change).

In fact, the company’s diversity goals extend beyond gender and race to include different sexual orientations and several disabilities. It promotes a strong ‘speak up’ culture program that allows employees to voice their opinions. Recently, they made their POSH at workplace policies gender neutral as well.

He says that he has seen a commitment to equality and inclusion within the company’s executive leadership level up to the junior most level. While there is still work to be done, the base of a positive attitude and acceptance is there, he points out. He feels that the company now needs to continue to magnify that across the organization.

Male Allyship

Men have a very critical role in ensuring gender equality in the workplace, believes Sanjay. They can help not just by supporting the cause, he adds, but also acting as sponsors for development of strong women leadership within the organisation. “They need to be aware of their privileges and then work towards breaking those privileges,” he thinks.

Male leaders, he feels, need to act more as sponsors than just being mentors. He shares that in the past six years above, he has helped ten women leaders to catapult to their next rung in the career. Talking about this experience, he says, “When I look back at this journey, it gives me an innate sense of satisfaction knowing I guided these talented, powerful women and helped them achieve their career goals.” He believes that other male leaders have to make similar contributions to make this an equitable world.

He believes that men in leadership positions need to make a conscious effort to ensure that gender bias does not creep in their daily interactions.  He shares that the biggest bias that he has seen in men, is the work life and family life balance comparison between the two genders. They must ensure that does not cloud their judgement or decision making when it comes to promoting a women leader, he says.

Pandemic and Beyond

Talking about the impact of the pandemic on the industry, Sanjay acknowledges that statistically we have seen more women impacted globally. He shares that when he spoke to some Indian women colleagues and peers who had to leave their jobs not because they wanted to do so but because either they or their family members were impacted by the pandemic. Often, the collective decision made by the family impacted the woman’s job.

That’s why the Parexel team has decided that their doors will always remain open if and when those female colleagues decide to come back. “We have also introduced flexible working hours and decentralized working options during the pandemic to allow women to act as caregivers as needed while also balancing their work life,” he informs

Sanjay believes that the world is on the cusp of transition to ensure that gender diversity becomes a way of life and does not remain just another initiative or thought. However, making that transition and getting the sceptics to come on board is what is going to be challenging. With the new way of working from home, it is all-the-more critical to stay connected on such critical issues around gender diversity and to keep bringing them back to the forefront.

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Women Bear the Brunt of Unconscious Bias: Jahanara

BENGALURU - After working in various roles in the clinical research industry, Jahanara Rahuldev is currently the India head for Parexel Biotech's Project Leadership organization, a group of highly skilled Project Leaders. She is also a member of Parexel India’s Leadership team and the General Mana...
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BENGALURU – After working in various roles in the clinical research industry, Jahanara Rahuldev is currently the India head for Parexel Biotech‘s Project Leadership organization, a group of highly skilled Project Leaders. She is also a member of Parexel India’s Leadership team and the General Manager, Business Administration for Bangalore, Delhi, and Mumbai and the Diversity & Inclusion Lead for Parexel India. She balances all these responsibilities along with that of being a wife and mother of two teenagers.

Gender Diversity

The most important thing to bring about gender diversity at the workplace, she believes, is to honestly believe in the value of diversity and the need for inclusion. “Authentic commitment to the cause is vital. Along with that, one must have leadership traits that engage and influence people to support the cause, good communication skills, and strong team-building skills,” asserts Rahuldev.

She feels that gender diversity is a sensitive and nuanced issue, with varying perceptions and societal beliefs. This requires a leader in this vertical to have clarity of purpose and the ability to effectively navigate conflicts, she adds.

In a bid to commit itself to gender diversity, a company must be ready to take a good, hard look at itself. “It needs to scrutinize all its policies and practices and identify ones that may cause discrimination, albeit unknowingly,” says Rahuldev. She thinks that such company would not hesitate in allocating dedicated resources to assess the culture of the organization and the behaviors of its leadership in order to bring consistency and persistence of inclusive values.

Unconscious Bias 

Women bear the brunt of incorrect perceptions or unconscious bias, she points out. Explaining this, she talks about perceptions like women may not be able to do as much as men, they may not be as good in roles requiring manual effort or frequent travels and women of a certain age would be more focused on their marriage or children than their career.

“Another challenge is how the characteristics or behaviors of women are perceived,” she says. A confident and forceful man is called ‘assertive’ while a woman displaying the same traits is labeled ‘aggressive.’ A man who takes time to consider all angles before voicing an opinion is said to be ‘thoughtful,’ whereas a woman doing the same is perceived as ‘quiet.’

Such beliefs sometimes cause women to be overlooked or passed over when there are opportunities for advancement and growth, thereby undermining their true potential, shares Rahuldev.

Plan of Action 

Parexel leads by example, with its Chief Diversity Officer and the D&I team showing no tolerance for any discriminatory behavior. Additionally, there are several regional D&I committees comprising members from various business lines in multiple parts of the globe. The company also keeps updating their programs and policies, keeping up with the times and changing societal norms.

All employees undergo a comprehensive D&I training program that addresses race, ethnicity, cultural and unconscious bias. Rather than being a ‘check-the-box’ activity, it is  viewed as chance to have a serious dialogue on the topic. The D&I team ensure all employees work towards and understand the importance of talent recruitment, gender partnership and equality, LGBTQ+ community and allies, and supplier diversity.

The company has gone a step ahead of the rest and devised an inclusive patient strategy as well. “We now have a significant workstream focused on clinical trial diversity. Clinical trial participants should reflect the patient populations who will ultimately use these medications,” explains Rahuldev. They are also collaborating with industry groups such as the Center for Information and Study on Clinical Research Participation (CISCRP) and the Society for Clinical Research Sites (SCRS) to advance diversity in clinical trial recruitment, she adds.

Besides, Parexel has programs targeted to identify high potential women at mid-management and leadership levels and provide them the support required to grow in their careers, she informs. “These programs hone leadership skills and give women the tools, resources and support system they need to progress with their careers, both within the company and as a whole. They also help in making it easier for pregnant women and returning mothers to continue working successfully,” she informs.

Male Allies

Rahuldev believes that men should leverage their authority to be advocates of gender equality, becoming allies of the cause. “Unfortunately, most men don’t realize that they have a role to play in creating equitable workplaces. Organizations must encourage  men to become involved and facilitate open dialogue about gender roles and cultural perceptions of gender differences,” she says.

To build an inclusive workplace, honest and respectful communication is of essence, she feels. In this direction, Parexel hosted a panel featuring male and female executives and colleagues discussing the important role men play in setting the stage for gender equity on the occasion of International Women’s Day.

“Change can happen if we recognize the need for it. Conversations and dialogue are the foundation of creating and increasing awareness. I intend to continue our efforts in this regard: to continuously identify and eliminate barriers, to create more transparency and, most importantly, to maintain consistency of actions,” says Rahuldev.

Future Proofing 

Pointing out that diverse organizations financially outperform those that aren’t has been proven by research, she says that the bottom line in itself should be a big motivation for organizations to evaluate how diverse they are.

“Yet, the progress is slow. I believe organizations are taking the proper first steps. The challenge will be in making it a part of their culture and not letting it remain as a ‘nice-to-have’ initiative,” she says. As an example, she speaks about how hiring diverse talent isn’t enough, inculcating a culture that helps the diverse workforce remain and thrive in the organisation is equally important.

This can be achieved, she believes, when organizations are fair and transparent in their D&I efforts. They should focus on creating level playing fields for all, by ensuring culture shifts in how they hire, pay, and promote employees, she adds. She counts commitment, transparency, and consistency will be vital traits in creating and maintaining diverse organizations.

Rahuldev envisions a future where a gender-diverse equitable organization is the norm. She wishes for people to identify unconscious bias and employ tools to overcome it. An ideal workplace for her would be one where everyone is aware of and believes in the true benefits of having a gender-diverse organization.

Pandemic Impact

Calling 2020 a challenging year that changed people’s lives overnight, she talks about how sad and humbling it was to see the difficulties people went through because of the disease, loss of loved ones, and loss of livelihood. “It was incredible to me that this was happening worldwide — what an equalizer this pandemic has been in so many ways!,” she says.

Lucky to be a part of an organization that has always been flexible and allowed people to work from home, Rahuldev and her team had the infrastructure and technology required to work uninterrupted. She never thought she would ever feel gratitude for being in such a situation.

“I’ve learned not to take things for granted, as the most straightforward thing could be taken away in a moment. I’ve known to be grateful, to not compare with those who are better situated but to look at those who aren’t and help in any manner possible,” she says.

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What's it really like for Women at Parexel?

"As I am Independent Development sector professional, i have felt disparity between men and women wages, though work doubly hard to prove oneself."

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"The company is male dominated. Lack of automation. Long working hours. High attrition rate. Shortage of labour in Logistics Industry."

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