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Cortex - Life Sciences Insights

| 4 minutes read

Pride in Life Sciences Series 2024

To mark Pride Month 2024, we have launched a new series to celebrate the LGBTQ+ community working in the life sciences sector. Visibility plays an important role in creating a sense of belonging and security, and being open about gender and sexuality promotes role models for the wider community. This is key in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) fields where estimates suggest LGBTQ+ people are 20% less represented compared to other sectors. Join us as we are joined by inspirational guest speakers to hear about their experiences and hopes for the future. 

DISCLAIMER: All participants are speaking in their personal capacity and not as clients of DLA Piper or as representatives of their company or organisation.

This week's feature: Zac Fargher

Launching our series is Zac Fargher, Chief Legal Counsel for Takeda Oceania, interviewed by Alexandra de Zwart, a Senior Associate in the DLA Piper Sydney office, specialising in Intellectual Property. The complete interview is found in the video and some of the highlights can be found below: 

So tell us about your journey into your current role and any challenges you’ve faced and how you have overcome them?

Zac has always had a life sciences focus, working in private practice in the UK and his native New Zealand, and more recently in-house at a life sciences organisation. While there wasn’t a formal ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ policy at the start of his career, a lot has changed in the diversity and inclusion (D&I) space, there is more awareness and its more likely that companies will have policies in place.

“As a litmus test when applying for law firms I put in my cover letter that I had a boyfriend, unfortunately he was fictional, but that was my way of seeing which places would respond ... the first firm I applied to talked about it and were open and discussed their burgeoning initiatives. On and off I have found some challenges around feeling slightly different, but I have been lucky enough to work in a time where all the companies I have worked for had really explicit and dedicated commitments to D&I.”

What is your favourite thing about your job? 

Like a lot of in-house lawyers Zac enjoys the breadth of the work. Reviewing a master services agreement with a major supplier, then having to pivot to a privacy law question, regulation of a clinical trial, or an employment relations matter which requires a dexterity that is stimulating and exciting. And when it gets too detailed, he finds that he can rely on private practice lawyers. With life sciences being such a heavily regulated industry “legal is a key stakeholder, there are very few matters where legal isn’t involved. That level of engagement is great.”

What exciting developments are you looking forward to in your field over the next 5-10 years?

Zac talked about how the current climate is an exciting time to be working in life sciences. The nature of the challenges that pharmaceutical companies face, around healthcare budget constraints mean that pharma and medical device companies are working as collaboratively and innovatively as possible. The pace of change means that companies find they must move quickly.

What advice would you give to LGBTQIA+ people starting out in Life Sciences?

Following on from the previous question Zac noted that, as an industry, life sciences operates at scale, a lot of the major companies are global and have long histories. How does that play out in the D&I space? Zac feels that sometimes larger pharma companies can be quite traditional, but are speeding up and becoming more adaptive, they have inclusive cultures and are at heart science driven organisations. Recognising that different regions might have a different focus for diversity and inclusion, Alexandra said “it is important to feel safe and welcomed at work, wherever that is”, so it is good to think about how that might differ if you were to relocate. 

“I would say look into where you think you might feel comfortable, where you might feel included. A lot of companies share their diversity inclusion policies online now. It is a habit I have kept since my cover letter test that I find a way to broach it in an interview, whether its directly or by implication, and see what kind of response I get, because that can be an early sign of inclusiveness.”

Would you like to share any other insights?

I think it is great that there is a shift towards ensuring you feel included in the workplace translates to how effectively you perform.…I think we have come a long way in recognising that diversity is a strength for organisations but also for people looking at their own experience of being from a diverse community and seeing that as a source of strength for them. 

We talked about some of the more difficult experiences of coming from the rainbow community, but think of some of the ways that has upskilled you, whether through extra resilience and knowing that those skills come with you in your career. It gives you a sense of what we call in New Zealand ‘mana’ - a sense of being and confidence. 

Hopefully that is an encouraging note to end on, some of these things have been a challenge or burden in the past, there seems to be a real culture shift to not only organisations but individuals to say that is something I can wear with pride.”

Next in the Pride in Life Sciences Series 

This series features inspirational people in the LGBTQ+ community working in the life sciences sector. The aim is to increase access and visibility of LGBTQ+ role models in the Life Sciences sector.

Please tune in for the next feature on Alexander Toro Alvarez, Director of Global Talent Management at ResMed.