Women in Bioscience

Ashley Wozniak


Ashley Wozniak is the General Manager & Vice President, Government Business at Emergent BioSolutions. Ashley brings over 17 years of experience that combine a science/ PhD background with strong business expertise that spans Tech Transfer, Intellectual Property, Mergers & Acquisitions, Financial modeling, New Product Planning and Product Management. Since joining Emergent in 2008, Ashley has played a pivotal leadership role in many fronts. Ashely holds a PhD in Molecular Biology from the University of Manitoba.

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Q: What is it like to be a woman in bioscience? 

A: While challenging, being a woman in bioscience has been very rewarding. I have always been driven by the need to feel like I am making a difference, and this field is one where it is easy to see the kind of impact you are having on the world with the work you do. It can be difficult when I am one of the only women in the room, but I find as a woman, and a leader, in biosciences I can bring a different perspective to culture, how to engage people and help teams to do their best.


Q: Who or what inspired you to work in the bioscience industry? 

A: My grandfather was one of the first feminists that I ever met. He was fierce in his opinions about how women should never force themselves to fit into any mold that the world had for them, and to always be able to take care of themselves.  He was also an immigrant who came to Canada after the second world war with nothing and built an incredible life through perseverance and hard work. He pushed me to believe in myself and to embrace who I was and to never settle until I felt I had reached my full potential.


Q: Who are your women role models and not necessarily in science? 

A: My mom and grandmother, both of whom were working moms and balanced work and family. They showed me that having both is possible and that I could choose my own path to happiness even if it was not traditional. My aunt also showed me that a love of learning doesn't need to disappear after you are done school and that it's never too late to chase your dreams.


Q: Would you say that through your career, things have become better for women working in the bioscience industry?

A: While definitely not as far along as I would like, I do think that things have gotten better for women working in the bioscience industry, although that is still very likely a company-by-company experience.  I can say that personally, I am no longer called bossy or worse, when I express an opinion different than my peers, and at Emergent I have seen the respect that comes with my leadership style of "feelings first."


Q:How did you reach your level of success, given the sector’s gender gap, especially among leadership? 

A: Having a clear set of values that I was not willing to compromise on helped me set boundaries that women often feel they need to bend on, and while I often thought holding the line was a career limiting move when I did it, it actually gained me respect from those who were pushing me to conform.

And finally, being curious, always wanting to learn new things and being open to new opportunities and trying new things has been what has made me as successful as I have been over the course of my career.  I started my career in licensing and corporate development. Never in a million years would I have told you then that my career aspirations would include running a business line for a large public biopharma company, and yet here I am. My career has been what someone once called a "broken arrow" path, which has given me a broad set of experiences and perspective to draw on in whatever my current role is, and my love of learning keeps pushing me to do more and be better, which has translated to the success I have seen.


Q: What are the biggest obstacles you had to overcome? 

A: Aside from some of the systemic challenges I faced early in my career as a woman, the biggest obstacle was the stereotype of what a great leader is, which is something I had internalized even while trying to change the status quo. To be an effective and authentic leader, I needed to embrace my leadership style of leading with feelings first, and not worry about whether my peers thought that focus was corny, emotional or "too female". I needed to embrace that I am a better mom when I am a working mom, and that my experiences and ability to hold both parts of my life as equal gives me a unique perspective.


Q:If you had the option to give advice to a younger version of yourself, what would that be? 

A: To remind myself that you are building on the accomplishments of my working mother's generation, and building towards the world I want my daughters to thrive in. To not spend too much time worrying over the names or things people will call you, because it is going to help you persist and make you stronger. That our children, families, and personal lives are an inherent part of our experience and who we are, even at work. And that caring personally about people as a leader is never corny.


I have two; hope that is okay!

"Nevertheless, she persisted"

"There are two polar opposites: Staying still and Breaking. It's easy to visualize each end of the axis, whatever the activity, in between is stretching.

Stretching is growth. Extending our reach. Becoming more resilient, limber, and powerful. Stretching hurts, a bit, and maybe leaves us just a little bit sore. But then, tomorrow, we can stretch further than we could yesterday. Because stretching compounds.

If you're afraid of breaking, the answer isn't to stay still. No, if you're afraid of breaking, the answer is to dedicate yourself to stretching."


LinkedIn: Ashley Wozniak



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