There’s just something about the presence of a foosball soccer table that radiates a genuine mess room-vibe: and when Chiara Carboni produces an apple, a fork and a tupperware container filled with homemade couscous, she drives home the point that I’m about to partake in a real authentic everyday Bio Science Park lunch.
While we eat, Chiara (director project management office) explains how the company she works for is going through a large transition. Known up until now as OctoPlus, the company was incorporated over the last few years into the large Indian company Dr. Reddy, and will soon be rechristened ‘IPDO Leiden’. The company’s business plan has changed accordingly, from performing projects commissioned by external customers to a focus on complex injectable products in the field of generic drugs. Chiara: “A generic drug is like a copy of a marketed drug, but much less expensive. Our mission is to make drugs affordable now, because good health can’t wait. We are experiencing a good momentum and it’s nice because you really feel you are part of a team, and that your work has an impact.”
But Chiara has a more personal mission as well. Together with a small group of women working in the life sciences, she aims to stimulate a more equal playing field for women. “I’m a woman in a leadership position, and I want to help young women realise their ambitions.” This industry is still very male-dominated, she admits: “I’m used to meetings where I’m the only woman. The men I work with are very nice, but one some level I’m just not one of them. For instance, there’s always that moment at the start of a meeting when someone points out someone should take notes. Women, wanting to help, are quick to say yes, but should learn to shut up and let someone else volunteer. Just as we should try not to be the ones pouring coffee all the time; it only reinforces the stereotype of ‘she’s a woman, so she must be the secretary’.”
While we finish lunch, Chiara challenges me to a game of foosball. (I’m quick to decline - I strongly suspect I’m terrible at it.) She’s a good player herself and the competition among her colleagues is fierce. A company-wide tournament has just recently ended, and even though Chiara’s team didn’t make the finals, the team’s name does reveal some of her passionate personal ambition. Their name? The Pink Panthers.
Chiara and her group of women are currently establishing a framework from which to pan out their ambition. In the meantime, don’t hesitate to contact Chiara through e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Interview by Blinde Paniek