‘To Be Different is Desirable’
Hafrún Friðriksdóttir, PhD, Executive Vice President of the Israeli pharmaceutical giant Teva, received recognition from the Association of Women in Business in Iceland. The recognition is given for good work performed for the benefit of women in business, or those who have given women in business special motivation.
Reprinted with permission from the original Frettabladid article: https://frettabladid.overcastcdn.com/documents/SC220121.pdf
"It's always nice to be recognized and the FKA recognition is important to me. I hope that I can inspire other women, and also men, with motivation to continue moving forward, because even if Icelandic society is small, it offers many opportunities," says Hafrún Friðriksdóttir, as she speaks proudly of the honor.
She advises younger women to seize opportunities when they arise and not to doubt your own capability.
“Do not say no. I have always believed that everyone should have equal opportunities and that when many people compete for the same position, the most qualified person should get the job, regardless of color, gender or age. I have never been in favor of quotas, neither gender quotas nor other quotas. And despite the fact that I do not spend too much time on the Icelandic economy, I broadly know what is going on here and am of the opinion that work experience in Iceland needs to be valued more than it is now. I see a big difference there, compared to the United States and around the world."
Hafrún completed her first female doctoral degree from the Faculty of Pharmacy at the University of Iceland in 1997. She worked for Actavis throughout much of her career until the company merged with Teva following the acquisition at the end of 2016.
Does not slow down on long working days
Teva is the largest manufacturer of generic medicines in the world and has an office established in New Jersey in the United States. Under Hafrún’s leadership is all of Teva's global medicines development activities worldwide for both specialty and generic, about 25 drug development centers, and 3,500 employees worldwide responsible for the development and registration of about 1,100 generic drugs on an annual basis, numerous biosimilars and specialty drugs, which mainly are new biologics developed in-house at Teva.
"These are very exciting times. A lot of my work has gone into maximizing productivity and bringing companies together. It has been fun to have the chance to work with and build a team of people from all over the world and who come from different situations and cultures. In my team now are people from eight countries and all with different backgrounds and we have managed to work very well together and succeed.
I consider one of my strengths to be that I enjoy working with people. I expect the same of myself as I expect from others. I've always enjoyed work and never regretted working a long day."
Hafrún's traditional work day is diverse and she says work is pleasant and demanding.
"The job has given me an opportunity to develop in so many ways. I have had the opportunity to get to know people from all over the world and develop a broad view of the world, to see its endless possibilities. It has given me the opportunity to take on tasks that I could not have imagined being offered ten to fifteen years ago."
Sometimes too fearless
Hafrún's work is mostly managerial. “I assist my staff in making decisions and monitoring the status of various development projects, both in basic research on innovative medicines, biosimilars and generic medicines. The job also involves running the development unit, prioritizing and making sure we spend the money at our disposal in the right way. Teva spends around US $1 billion for the development and research work annually. Then I am involved in the management of the company where I work on strategy, budgets and so on. I also co-chair board meetings on development-related issues, present them to the board and much more in other related matters."
But what kind of manager do you think Hafrún is?
"My motto is that you can only expect something from someone else that you are willing to do. I feel confident that my subordinates say I am focused, fair, determined and quick to make decisions, and even though my decisions are not always right, I do not dwell on them but learn from them, try not to repeat the mistakes and keep going. I am not afraid to express my views; even sometimes I am too fearless."
Advantage of being different
In the nest of the Icelandic economy, Hafrún brings courage and dignity.
"The native thinking that has been most useful to me is the fearlessness that was present in Iceland when I was starting in the labor market; that you can do what you want, if you have the will.”
She wishes women and all equality. "Equality is about openness and being ready to see things from many angles. To be able to deal with different things and process them in the best possible way. It's a victory. Being different is desirable. It is an advantage, not a disadvantage. "
She says she is proud of what she's doing today.
"Yes, I work for a great company, with great partners, and the opportunities are endless. The biggest challenge was and is not to give up but to keep going. I hope I have not reached the peak of my career and I look forward to joining other company boards in the future when I start reducing my daily workload at Teva. I would do it all again without hesitation."