My Brilliant Career: Overcoming stereotypes — and keeping your distance
Shannon te Roller is the GM at Mundipharma for SA and Sub-Saharan Africa
What does the GM of Mundipharma SA do each day at work?
No day is the same — we are an agile, ambitious company with an incredible team of specialists. My job is to steer the ship and co-ordinate all the different functional areas of the company. Setting the broader strategy/direction of the company, marrying the needs of customers and understanding market dynamics. This involves maximising the organsation’s resources — its people, channels and products. Striving to keep the people in the organisation motivated, focused and engaged is a core part of everything.
How has the Covid-19 pandemic affected your business and the way you and your team work?
It has involved us drawing on both emotional and intellectual strength. We aim for a culture of “growth mindset” in our organisation and that has never been more necessary than during the pandemic. The priority is to ensure the team feels safe and valued while we make dramatic changes to the way the business functions, for example, working from home and and embracing the virtual world of business communication.
My team includes many families in SA that are having to home-school their children, meet business demands, and navigate the psychological and financial insecurity the pandemic has brought.
As a pharmaceutical company, what advice does Mundipharma have on how to deal with the coronavirus?
Each person in SA has a personal responsibility to consider the effect of their actions on their families, neighbours and broader community. We have sound guidance from institutions such as the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organisation (WHO), which have made it clear that simple measures such as social-distancing and wearing a mask in public can make a huge difference.
A report recently published in the Oral Diseases Journal indicates that povidone‐iodine (PVP‐I) products (such as Betadine Mouthwash and Gargle) have a prophylactic effect on SARS‐CoV transmission during outbreaks, and the WHO has included this in its recommendations for all dental care.
Have you faced any particular challenges as a female leader? What advice would you give other women on how to deal with these?
The predominant one is overcoming stereotypes and cultural beliefs that women’s roles should be limited. I have found that it takes time for mindsets to shift in traditionally male-dominated businesses to a point where the value of the difference women bring to a business are acknowledged. These differences include their approach to managing, their different viewpoint, and how they participate in conversation.
To gain a voice of credibility in a leadership role has meant going that extra mile, working longer hours, finding innovative ways to show successful outcomes to problems. This can be challenging when one is also a mom and running a household. The good news is that mindsets are changing, and I find there is a genuine desire to have the agenda of female empowerment in business. It needs to form part of an organisation’s cultural DNA.
There has never been a more exciting time for women in business than now when the world is thinking about working differently and more flexibly.
What do you think women leaders bring to an organisation? What is the best way to ensure women succeed at work?
It is essentially all about bringing diversity to an organisation. Diversity encompasses a wide range of features such as race, culture, age, and, of course, gender. Studies have found that women in leadership affect the success of businesses both in terms of recording higher sales and profits and in achieving employee engagement and retention. Fortune 500 companies with the highest representation of women on boards financially outperformed companies with the lowest representation of women on boards.
Women need to be given an environment where their jobs can fit well with other areas of their lives, where they feel they have a purpose and are contributing. Women need to be braver, and believe in what they bring to the table.
What did you want to be when you were a child?
I wanted to become a pilot. I was always enthralled by travel, getting to experience different places and cultures. Aeroplanes were like a magic carpet that made that possible.
What makes your job meaningful?
There are so many aspects that drive me in my work. I get to work with amazing people every day and get to play a role in helping them reach their full potential. Working with people can be the hardest part of the job but is most certainly the most rewarding. I truly believe our medications add value to patients, consumers and healthcare practitioners.
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