“I don’t regret any step I have taken in my career”

Insights from Hafrun Fridriksdottir, Executive VP, Global R&D

With the World Economic Forum's Global Gender Gap Report findings telling us that gender parity is over 200 years away, it’s important for women and men to press for progress.

Things are definitely changing with activism for women's equality fuelled by movements such as #MeToo, #TimesUp and many others. There is a strong global momentum striving for gender parity. With this in mind, we talked to Hafrun Fridriksdottir, Teva’s Executive Vice President, Global R&D, for her insights and how she stays motivated.

It is very important to be visible and put yourself forward

There is no one just waiting for you. You need to know what you want, whether in your career or what you do in life.

Women need to be willing to take opportunities

Sometimes you need to make sacrifices. In many women’s minds they can’t do it because they have to take care of the family, so they don’t put themselves forward. Of course it would be great to have more women in senior management roles.

As a leader in the company, you have to believe in what you are doing

I enjoy the science but I also enjoy managing people. I enjoy discussing my projects, setting up plans for the future and making things move forward. A leader is someone who shows by example, both inside and outside of the workplace. You need to be able to talk to people; to challenge them on their work and have educated discussions about the tasks they are doing on a daily basis.

I don’t see any gender difference

Personally, I hope I treat women and men in the same way.

I grew up in the countryside in Iceland and became interested in chemistry very early

As a young girl, I had the same dreams as everyone else. I don’t think I ever wanted to be a flight attendant but I probably wanted to be a dentist or a medical doctor. I didn’t have a career plan of what I wanted to do when I was 12 years old. But I always wanted to be in a management position.

I was good at chemistry

It was easy for me and that’s probably one of the reasons I specialized in the subject. You have to understand chemistry quite well to understand how different drugs work. When I started to work in the pharmaceutical industry, I was quite focused on what I wanted to do. I had goals that I wanted to achieve.

If I had to start over again, I don’t think I would do anything differently

I don’t regret any step I have taken in my career. I would probably tell myself to go along the same road.

Over the last ten years, it has only been about work

I relocated to the United States and my family stayed behind in Iceland. With hindsight, I would probably try to redress the work/life balance. But if you really want to be successful in a big position, you need to focus and spend a lot of your time working.

Exercise is extremely important for me

I try to wake up before six in the morning and run 10km every day. On my vacations, I take a week or ten days just running in different places. I’ve been to Peru, Argentina, Chile, Mount Kilimanjaro in Africa. I’ve also enjoyed places in the US such as Colorado. There are a lot of beautiful parks in Salt Lake City.

I like new challenges

That’s something which excites me. I don’t really like the status quo. I always want to see new things coming in, so that’s something that motivates me. I also like working with people who don’t take things too seriously. It’s important to have people around me that I click with.

I miss the easiness of living in Iceland

I would like to have my family close to me. Everything is so close, as I could get to Reykjavik within five minutes of where I live. And of course the landscape! I don’t really miss the food. If you want to buy Icelandic fish, you can just go to the local store here.

I live in Morristown, New Jersey

I bought a new house a year ago and renovated it, so I have a beautiful home. I live near a lovely park, so in the summer it’s really nice to go for a walk or a run there. I just like being outside. I also love going to New York. Last January I walked around the city for hours and hours. I’ve been in the US for ten years now and the plan was to stay for here for just nine months!

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