Charting a path to success: my International Women's Day advice is for everyone

As a physician, a senior executive, a researcher and a parent, I play many roles – but I don’t often stop to think about my gender.

Today, on International Women’s Day, I find myself reflecting on the great opportunities I’ve been fortunate to experience in my career. With the support of mentors and colleagues, I’ve charted an exciting path at GSK while pursuing my passion for helping others. I’ve grown from a pulmonologist to a research physician, from director of clinical development to Chief Medical Officer of Pharmaceuticals, and have led departments from the US to the UK to China.

Dr. Kate Knobil says, "My mother was my role model. She inspired me to make a contribution to science but also to advocate for myself." 

Dr. Kate Knobil says, "My mother was my role model. She inspired me to make a contribution to science but also to advocate for myself." 

Now I strive to be a mentor to other young women (and men!) who are looking to influence their own career paths. In the spirit of helping women and girls achieve their ambitions, here is my best advice for creating success:

  1. Get out of your comfort zone. When I was younger, I was incredibly shy and reluctant to try new things; then I found I was exhilarated by getting out of my comfort zone – learning a new skill, moving to a new country, or working within a different company or institution. Gaining a broader view of the world and learning more than one way of doing things is critical to success.
  2. Don’t wait for someone to notice. Working hard, gaining visibility and being recognized for good work is important – but don’t expect that to be the only way to get where you want to go. If there’s something new you want to try, speak up and let your manager know your aspirations. They can help! Tell your manager, this is what I want.
  3. Speak to the strategy behind the decision. I’ve noticed that women tend to communicate more tactically about next steps: what they would do, rather than what they want to achieve. This isn’t for lack of considering the desired outcome – but sharing the desired results alongside the actions rallies others to a shared vision.

This advice is for all people I mentor – women and men alike. As the mother of two teenage boys, I’m proud to work for an organization that places women in important leadership positions. I know their impression of me as a physician and a professional will have an impact on their beliefs about traditional gender roles as they grow older – and that’s important, because seeing women in strong roles now will make it the norm for them when they enter the workforce, rather than the exception.

Learn more about International Women’s Day and support the #PledgeforParity.