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Calling Time on Bad Behavior

The #MeToo and Time’s Up movements have made sexual harassment a global conversation. Women from all walks of life have become emboldened to speak up – including in the life sciences and pharma industries.

I am the newest addition to The Medicine Maker team (Deputy Editor from January 2018) and, as a woman, I have been watching as the #MeToo movement hits the industry. It has become increasingly evident in recent months that sexual harassment in all industries can be swept under the carpet – or, even worse, result in a backlash against women who speak up. But what I have seen so far in pharma is heartening. Sanofi, for example, got caught up in the French version of the #MeToo movement (also known as #BalanceTonPorc) when it fired director of press relations Jean-Marc Podvin amid a number of allegations. Podvin went on to bring an unfair dismissal lawsuit against Sanofi – and lost. The company did not comment directly on the case, but said in a statement that it has “always taken all the necessary measures to prevent sexual harassment, to put an end to it and sanction it” (1).

Several pharma companies were also amongst 22 advertisers who pulled their ads from a US talk show hosted by Bill O’Reilly in April 2017, after a report in The New York Times revealed that five women had received substantial settlements after making allegations (2). Notably, GlaxoSmithKline joined the ad freeze on the same day that Emma Walmsley took over as CEO (3). (O’Reilly went on to lose his job at Fox News.)

Unfortunately, accusations of sexual harassment continue to emerge. In early March, allegations from a former employee of Janssen Korea came to light, detailing seven years of verbal and physical harassment at the hands of senior employees and client doctors (4). At the time of publication, the story is still developing and Janssen had yet to comment.

As the #MeToo movement builds even more momentum, let’s hope all industries listen seriously to any concerns raised, while working hard to celebrate and champion both men and women. Things are changing for women the world over – and it looks like pharma is committed to being part of that.

Roisin McGuigan

Deputy Editor

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  1. Bloomberg Technology, “A Frenchman demands €1.2 million after sexting his assistant”, (2018). Available at: Accessed March 8, 2018.
  2. ABC News, “22 companies pull advertising from ‘The O’Reilly Factor’”, (2017). Available at: Accessed March 8, 2018.
  3. FiercePharma, “GSK, Sanofi, Bayer and Lilly join parade of advertisers marching off Fox News host O’Reilly’s TV show”, (2017). Available at: Accessed March 8, 2018.
  4. Korea Biomedical Review, “‘Me Too’ movement spreads to pharma sector”, (2018). Available at: Accessed March 8, 2018.
About the Author
Roisin McGuigan

I have an extensive academic background in the life sciences, having studied forensic biology and human medical genetics in my time at Strathclyde and Glasgow Universities. My research, data presentation and bioinformatics skills plus my ‘wet lab’ experience have been a superb grounding for my role as a Deputy Editor at Texere Publishing. The job allows me to utilize my hard-learned academic skills and experience in my current position within an exciting and contemporary publishing company.

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