Dr. Judith Reece is an innovative, independent value-driven leader. She has a wealth of experience and a deep understanding of biopharmaceutical science, strategy, and technology and how they can converge for the benefit of human health. Dr. Reece is currently the founder and Director of Reece Advisory Ltd, an independent advisory firm that partners with healthcare players to fully understand their risks and opportunities to catalyse strategic and operational decision-making to help patients faster.
Judith thrives when breaking down highly complex problems into clear routes forward.
Recently, in an exclusive interview with Digital First Magazine, Judith shared her professional background, what surprised her most in her career, personal female role models, insights on the future of women in the healthcare industry, and much more. The following excerpts are taken from the interview.
Judith, can you please tell us about your background and areas of interest?
I have a background in Biomedical Science and innovation and I’m passionate about making a positive difference in people’s lives.
You are a Strategic Advisor to the Board and Executive at the International Federation for Emergency Medicine. Can you please brief us about this global membership-based organization and your role in it?
The International Federation for Emergency Medicine (IFEM) is a global membership-based organisation that promotes high quality emergency medical care for all people. It achieves its mission by advocating for universal access to high quality emergency medical care through education and the development of standards which support the growth of the specialty of emergency medicine in every country. Thorough strong advocacy with governments, global health organizations, and communities, IFEM promotes access to and leads the development of the highest quality emergency medical care for people across the globe.
My role as Strategic Advisor to IFEM involves providing guidance and support to the Executive team and Board of Directors to catalyse strategic and operational decision-making and accelerate the delivery of high-quality emergency care to patients in all countries. Often this demands that I try to help them, and all the people I partner with, find clear routes forward in very complex landscapes.
I also ensure that the team has identified and understands the most pressing issues impacting their strategy, so that their innovative solutions closely align to their priorities. A recent example is the ongoing issue of overcrowding in emergency departments, where the IFEM developed a global position statement and campaign toolkit that country members now use to advocate for policy changes. These will reduce risk to patients and healthcare workers.
How can the life sciences industry inspire the next generation of female leaders to answer the world’s most pressing health care challenges?
It is imperative that the industry amplifies the fact that life science is truly purpose-led work. I strongly believe more industry players should start personalizing the journey for individual female leaders so they can feel valued and work with dignity throughout their life stages, particularly through steps of motherhood, self-care, and career responsibilities. Stop assuming all female leaders need the same development and support to be successful, remove the labels or ‘typical’ assumptions, and really listen to what will make a difference. Let women have the freedom and flexibility to grow and learn, rather than face scrutiny and comparisons.
My vantage point tells me that we are fast approaching a new tipping point where all facets of the life sciences industry will be held accountable to much higher standards and expectations from its workforce, external talent, and key stakeholders. People of both genders will drive this change as they continue to advocate for equity across all domains. The war for talent will be won by companies and industries that address the desire for career progression, flexible working – including career breaks – representation, role modelling, driving innovation and diversity. The quicker the life science industry makes those leaps, the sooner patients around the world will benefit from a diverse, talented, and engaged workforce.
What has surprised you most about your career?
My experience comprises an eclectic mix of specialisms and surprisingly they have combined to create an unusual blend. I’m especially surprised that I have managed to balance being a mother, wife, scientist, and leader in a way that I am now very proud of. There were many times along the way where this can feel like an almost impossible balancing act. As an introvert, I feel lucky and proud to be surrounded by a plethora of colleagues and friends from many different sectors, professions, and cultures who I care about, and who care about me in a way that means there is always someone to call upon and who know they can call upon me. Having a strong network is important.
What risks have you taken in your career that have paid off?
I believe in speaking my truth and acting where I believe values have not been followed. Staying authentic and true to my values is paramount. I’ll always choose the more difficult path and confidently stand-alone rather than be a by-stander.
In your opinion, how do women lead differently?
Every person leads differently so I prefer not to generalise. I believe we should take inspiration from great leaders regardless of gender. I lead differently to other women I know as well as men I know. At times brilliant leaders utilise different aspects of their leadership toolkits.
Some of the traits I have experienced in the very best female leaders I have worked with include their passion to foster an inclusive and diverse culture. For example, this is exemplified by how they involve and empower others in decision-making and problem-solving. In this respect, they readily embrace innovation and change and welcome creative solutions to overcome challenges. They also express a high level of emotional intelligence, particularly empathy and compassion. Leading differently in this way, and being truly authentic, resonates well with me.
What role has mentoring played in your career, either as a mentor, mentee or both?
Mentoring and being a mentee have been a constant throughout my career. Its longer-term nature ensures the reciprocal nature and collaborative relationship grows over time. Mentoring also gives permission for the sharing of knowledge, skills and experience versus coaching which tends to be more question-led to take people to a self-created solution. I value both mentoring and coaching to gather insight, synthesise thoughts and enable growth. I cannot recall a time in my career where mentoring, mentee, coach and coachee, haven’t been alive and active in my growth and in my support of others.
Has there been an influential woman in your life who supported or inspired you on your journey into health care/medicine?
I am fortunate to have been influenced by many inspiring women, not least my grandmother and mother. My grandmother was brilliant with numbers. I remember her calculating the cost of groceries in her head and giving the teller a complex combination of notes and coins to ensure she received the least weight possible in coins as change! This was a woman who, in her nineties, would discuss the stock market and reasons to hold, or sell shares in a diverse range of companies based on her reading. She also knew the share price of every share she held and its yield! My mum qualified as a dentist and was a working mother. She was one of only six women in her year at university, at a time when women weren’t always welcome. She also was a passionate and committed Scout and Guide leader. Today she is as committed as ever to supporting her local community. I am grateful to female leaders such as Julie Brown who gave me opportunities to develop outside my comfort zone, for example in finance and Bahija Jallal whose passion for science, authenticity, and diversity and inclusion continues to inspire me.
How can we encourage more women and girls to enter the sciences?
We can inspire young women and girls from all backgrounds by involving them in solving real-world healthcare issues and showcasing their innovation. Celebrating the achievements of girls and young women and making those achievements very visible to the populations that we are trying to reach is key to encouraging them to enter the sciences.
What do you see as the future of women in the healthcare industry?
I am very optimistic about the future as women in healthcare have a unique opportunity to shape the future of health and science. They bring diverse perspectives and experiences to address the complex challenges facing the industry. Women are already heavily involved in developing innovative solutions for diseases, improving access and quality of care, and advancing health equity and social justice. They have a vital role in advancing gender equality and diversity in the workforce, as they mentor and inspire other women and underrepresented groups to pursue careers in science. It’s important to always bring your unapologetic, authentic self to work. Invest in building your network, mentoring and coaching! It works!