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Women need to build a solid network for themselves

Written by: Sara Blanken

On the 22nd and 23rd of September the first edition of TOPX Summit takes place in Leiden. TOPX Summit is the annual career development & empowerment summit of TOPX Network, the platform for ambitious women in Life Sciences. This interview is with Tineke Van hooland, who herself is a great example of an ambitious woman, and who is the Chair of the second day of the program of TOPX Summit.

Tineke is founder and CEO of Epic 10, a boutique consulting firm specialised in External Affairs in Life Sciences. Tineke was educated in Industrial Pharmacy at the Ghent University. Early in her career, she made a switch from the more scientific part to communication and policy in biotech. "I was attracted to the field of communication and policy. When I got the opportunity to make the switch, I decided to go for it. This was a good choice, ever since I’ve been working in different communication and leadership positions."

After quite some years working for big biopharma companies, Tineke decided to start her own company, Epic 10. "I had been thinking about starting my own company for a while, but I hadn’t had the courage yet to take this step. When my job was touched due to a reorganization, it felt like the right moment. I haven’t regretted it since.” Epic 10 works with biotech companies on a variety of different projects: from personalized advice to CEOs, support on setting up governmental affairs strategies, trainings to public affairs departments, to setting up communication and social media strategies. She has an extensive network, which she built up during her corporate career, and also due to her involvement in the Belgian and European biotech federations. I think it’s really important to invest in your network. That’s also how I came in contact with the TOPX network and became an ambassador.”

Tineke is looking forward to the TOPX Summit. "There’s a two-day program. Different topics will be covered, from learning new skills to personal and professional branding. It’s all about empowering women!” The TOPX network is a network for ambitious women in Life Sciences and aims to support and encourage its members in their personal and professional growth. Tineke believes that the network TOPX offers is valuable. "I think women need to build a solid network for themselves. It’s important to focus on a network that is relevant for you and your career.”

Working in corporate jobs, Tineke faced the difficulties of being an ambitious woman: "I have worked with people who tried to slow me down. When I showed my ambition, they told me I shouldn’t be so eager to grow. I think this is still a big problem for women. They are not expected to show ambition, whereas men are encouraged to do so. In my opinion, companies would benefit from more female leadership. In general, women have a better emotional intelligence and are able to multitask. They are used to having a career and taking on tasks at home. Companies could help out with this; they could provide more flexibility for women in leadership positions.”

In Life Sciences companies, in middle management the number of women is about 50%. But if you look at the board of directors, there are only a few women who make it. I think there are different reasons for this. Women should position themselves better. Also, men can be more active in promoting diversity, which I think could make a big difference. I don’t think women should get these leadership positions at the expense of better qualified men, but I do wish equal chances for them.”

Tineke has some personal advice for ambitious women. When you are offered an opportunity, don’t be too careful. Grab this chance and learn new things on the job. You don’t have to be 100% qualified before you start a job. You can grow by learning. And be authentic in whatever you do.”

For more info and registration for TOPX Summit go to the TOPX Summit website.

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