On International Women’s Day 2023, in keeping with this year’s theme of “Embrace Equity”, Alimentiv continues to celebrate the achievements of women, their courage and determination to take action for equality and raise awareness against bias. We believe in empowering women, so in honour of IWD 2023, we are proud to profile a few of the many inspiring women that work at Alimentiv.

Today, we are recognizing Christine Muller, Senior Director, Clinical Study Management, and Alaa Darwech, Team Lead, Development.

Christine Muller, Senior Director, Clinical Study Management

With Alimentiv for 6 years

What unique challenges have you faced in your career as a woman? How did you overcome them?

I think for a long time in my career I didn’t think that it mattered whether you were male or female, which may have been a bit naïve. In all the companies I have ever worked, whether as a student or after I graduated, CEOs were men. This is especially remarkable for the CRO industry as I think majority of employees probably are female. However, I think I approached my career in the way with the mindset that I wanted to do a good job, I wanted challenges and I wanted to enjoy what I was doing. Progressing up the corporate ladder wasn’t necessarily my primary goal so I didn’t really bother about that too much. I really realized what disadvantages you can be faced with as a woman when I became a mom. Childcare in Germany, especially for young children, is pretty dreadful. When we had our first child, I continued working with a very low number of hours per week as the transition from working full time (and more) to a stay-at-home mom was something that I just couldn’t face.

When we had our second child I had to stay at home and found it very strange – great to be with the kids, but boring in so many ways. When our daughter was 1 year old, I went back to work part time, but childcare finished at 14:00 and that is when it became difficult.

I was offered a really good job in Business Development, but couldn’t take it as it would have involved afternoon calls and travel. I then got assigned to a project with a North American client, which meant calls in the afternoon and evening. I placed the kids in front of the television and fed them biscuits so that they kept quiet during calls, but soon realized if I didn’t want them to be obese or otherwise impacted, and I had to stop. I handed the project over to somebody else (a man who had kids about the same age as ours) and took a background role in other studies.

After several years my husband and I swapped – I went back to full time and he started working part time – which for him meant taking a step back in his career, giving up the leadership role in his team and going back to a role that he had years ago. I keep joking that he now sees what it is like to be a woman.

I think that having kids still impacts your career. It probably doesn’t matter that much whether you are a man or a woman, however, its usually the mothers who stay at home. This seems to be the expectation and probably impacts decisions on promotions and career development of women especially at the beginning for their career.

Which mentors or role models have positively impacted you in your career, and what’s one lesson that they taught you?

I had a great manager at my previous company who encouraged me to work, even for a few hours, when we had our first child. We were met with a lot of resistance from HR initially and she was great in supporting me through this. Her kids were a bit older than mine and she had an Aupair at home to help with kids and other stuff. It was a model that we adopted with our son, and it worked well for us.

How have you managed to balance your career and personal life?

Have I really balanced that? I am not too sure. I love what I am doing so it probably isn’t that bad but there are certainly times when my balance isn’t great. I think it is important that you like your job and the people you work with. I have experienced work as something that helped me through very hard personal life experiences, so there is that aspect to work with as well. I continue to work on balancing my job against personal life, trying to work out every day for 30 minutes, taking lunchbreaks away from the computer and pushing back on at least some evening meetings.

What advice would you give to your younger self?   

Choose a partner who will support you in what you want to do and who is not stuck in obsolete role allocations. I think I have done pretty well but it took me a while to get there.

I think despite the above, the one thing that I think we should not forget is how privileged we are  – living in Europe or North America means that we have access to education and careers. I just read this morning about the poisoning that is happening right now in girls’ schools in Iran. Women in Afghanistan are no longer allowed to study and to work in their professions and there are multiple other countries where women are treated as second class citizens with no rights and no mandate for freedom, education and independence. I think that women’s day should make us think about them and provide support if possible.

Alaa Darwech, Team Lead, Development

With Alimentiv for 2.5 years

What unique challenges have you faced in your career as a woman? How did you overcome them?

One of the challenges I faced early on in my career was feeling like I didn’t belong in a male-dominated field. I struggled with imposter syndrome and often felt like I wasn’t good enough to be there. However, I sought out supportive mentors who have provided me with extensive encouragement and guidance. They helped me recognize my strengths and values that I bring to the team. I also worked hard on building up my skills, recognizing that we all start somewhere, and developing confidence in myself and my abilities. While imposter syndrome is still something I still struggle with at times, I have learned to counter it with positive self-talk and evidence-based thinking (listing out your accomplishments in a journal is extremely helpful).

Which mentors or role models have positively impacted you in your career, and what’s one lesson that they taught you?

I have been fortunate enough to have come across some strong mentors throughout my career. They have taught me the importance of speaking up and encouraged me to share my ideas and opinions and to assert myself in meetings. Thanks to their guidance I have become more confident in my abilities and feel better equipped to navigate the challenges that come with being a woman in a male-dominated field. They have also reminded me of my accomplishments and encouraged me to focus on my strengths rather than my weaknesses, which has helped me build a more empowering mindset. Overall their guidance and support have been helpful throughout my career and I hope to have that impact on others in the future.

How have you managed to balance your career and personal life?

I found that balancing my career and personal life  at the start of my career was definitely challenging. I felt like I needed to prove myself and work long hours to demonstrate my commitment to the job. I soon realized that this approach was not sustainable and was a recipe for burnout. One strategy that has worked well for me was setting clear boundaries around working hours and prioritizing self-care activities outside of work. I find that planning out my day and prioritizing tasks before the start of the week is helpful to me. This allows me to be more efficient with my time and ensures that I am able to prioritize the most important tasks during work and leave room for important self care activities such as exercising and making time for friends and family. I also try to be mindful of my energy and listen to my body when it needs a break.

What advice would you give to your younger self?   

If I could go back in time to give my younger self some advice, I would tell her to be more confident in her abilities and to speak up. I would encourage her to push herself outside of her comfort zone early on and to express her ideas. As an immigrant and a woman in a male-dominated field, it seemed challenging to find my voice and asserting myself. Looking back, I realize I had a lot to offer and my ideas and perspectives were valuable. Another advice I would give my younger self is to not let the fear of failure stop me from taking risks and pursuing my goals. In the past, I was often hesitant to take on new challenges in fear of failing or simply looking like a fool. I have grown to realize that failure is an essential part of the learning process and in order to grow, you need to take risks and learn from the mistakes you made.