At Lift Up, we often celebrate the inspirational women who work in the Life Sciences. Recently we were able to sit down with Hollie Church, who is a Senior Corporate Social Responsibility at Illumina, a global leader in DNA sequencing and array-based technologies and the Founder and Chair of the Embrace Your Uniqueness (UNIQUE) ERG, which celebrates unique abilities and promotes inclusive workspaces through diverse teams. With such a people-focussed professional background, Hollie is an inspirational example of women in STEM.

Here are the highlights of our conversation on the topic:

Why is it so important for us to encourage the women who work in STEM?

“The dynamic has changed a lot over the years, and I really think that’s driven by people speaking out, educating themselves and raising awareness for the opportunities there are. The Life Sciences used to be very male-dominated, but there has been a switch. Women have seen that we have a voice, we have an opinion, and we would like to try something different. That’s great to see, because it’s allowed us to push forward and see that change in the new generation that’s coming in. That’s making a positive impact for lots of reasons.

When it comes to women entering the industry, When recruiting within the software and technology group, so I often see a lot more male applicants. Strangely, if we’re recruiting for a junior position I see more females applying for jobs, but at a more senior level that changes dramatically. Lots of people are now going to university and educating themselves in those disciplines, but there is a gap when you look at the mature dynamics. I think that there has been a lack of awareness and support for some generations of women to access that education because of funding or encouragement deficits.

The more we see businesses coming together, going out into schools, and connecting with the next generation, the more we will see a shift in the market. There’s a lot more we can be doing from a mature angle, but the future is looking brighter.”

Could you explain the importance of the ‘Dream Big’ mentality when it comes to entering a field that you don’t have an education in?

“Unfortunately I wasn’t aware of the opportunities within STEM whilst I was studying, but through working in recruitment I’ve managed to learn a lot about technology and science. Actually, I didn’t need to be an expert in those fields to be successful. I’ve built a valuable (business) while working in agency recruitment in this area, which just goes to show that you don’t always have to have the qualifications to be successful or make money. Fortunately, I did learn that I was very good at building relationships, taking requirements and sourcing some of the best talent in the world, which led me also to having a lot of fun along the way.

I’ve learnt that by sharing your ideas you can turn them into a reality. Now, in terms of education, there are some roles where it’s essential, such as lawyers, doctors, etc. When my life is in their hands, I would hope that they are fully qualified to save me. For the majority of roles however, I strongly feel that there are many ways individuals can be educated enough for them. There are routes such as apprenticeships, work experience, job training and volunteering which build skills that you might not be exposed to in your current job. You can also put yourself out there, sign up for projects (whether it’s internally or externally), and get involved in charity work. I was drawn to the Life Sciences, and I’ve made my way here.

For me personally, it was about recognising where my strengths and weaknesses were, and then maximising my ability to do well. Although I left school with no education, I proved my resilience, my desire, my passion, and my courage as well. It’s led me to be very successful, and I’ve not looked back and wondered ‘If I did have a degree, would my life be any different?’ I might have fast-tracked my career a little bit quicker, but I think the life skills that I’ve acquired along my journey have made me who I am, and I’m proud of that.”

What other resources or tips do you have for people who are looking to build their experience or break into a new area?

“Things that I’ve already mentioned such as apprenticeships and putting yourself out there for projects are great ways to develop. But, I need to add that I did spend six years educating myself through The Open University, because I felt during that time that companies wouldn’t take me seriously if I did not have a degree or education. Times have changed, and I get to see this firsthand during my recruitment career.

My second piece of advice would be to surround yourself with a handful of mentors. I have a group of mentors, some of whom I’ve handpicked or approached, and some of them have offered to mentor me and share their leadership skills with me themselves. They’re all at different levels, on different paths and in different career journeys. I decided to go with those mentors because I had identified the areas that I was weaker in, and I saw that they could provide me with more experience and knowledge in those areas. I could then become more confident and credible when offering advice on different matters.

Finally, I often attend webinars and events too, both virtually and face-to-face. I’m often connecting, building, and maintaining relationships because it’s amazing what you can learn from others. When I was at school, I was always scared to put my hand up and ask a question, because I didn’t want to embarrass myself. As I’ve gone through my career and I’ve experienced different things, I’ve reached a point now where I’m comfortable. My advice is to always share your questions.”

What role has networking played in your career?

“Working in recruitment, I’m all about building connections. It’s invaluable. Ask yourself ‘Does it affect your personal growth?’ Absolutely, it does. I would recommend building connections, building your inner and outer circle, and thinking about how they’ll contribute to your growth and development going forward. Surround yourself with skilled people who will add value to wherever you want to go. If you have a dream, go for it. I never thought it was going to happen for me, but it has, and it’s happening right now. Having recently moved into my new role internally as a Sr CSR I’m now able to bring my passion into my role full time as well as outside of the office.

You can achieve more than you think is possible. Having the right support around can only amplify that. Set yourself goals, set a plan to achieve them, create your career map and understand what your legacy will be, then go from there.”

To learn more from Hollie, you can find her on LinkedIn here.

with Helen Tomlinson


51% of the population will experience menopause during their lives, yet this is a topic that even the majority of women know very little about.


Menopause can be accompanied by a number of symptoms, ranging from physical to psychological, which can significantly impact a person’s ability to work effectively.


Recently one of our Lift Up ambassadors, Katy Barber, had the pleasure of sitting down with Helen Tomlinson, Government Menopause Employment Champion and the Head of Talent & Inclusion at The Adecco Group, to talk about how employers can more effectively support their employees through the menopause.


The Impact of Menopause in the Workplace


Helen explained that symptoms will impact people’s work in different ways depending on the type of role they are in. Symptoms can be physical or psychological, while roles can be autonomous, semi-autonomous or non-autonomous, which dictates how flexible their working schedules are to fit around potential distress or discomfort.


Helen thinks of non-autonomous roles as frontline workers who have no choice but to physically show up to work, such as nurses, doctors, teachers etc. For these workers, physical symptoms such as hot flushes, night sweats, very heavy periods, and incontinence are very difficult to manage, making them debilitating in some cases.


Psychological symptoms are more likely to be detrimental to people in more autonomous roles. Symptoms like lack of confidence and anxiety often lead to confidence issues, which can put women in remote working roles at a disadvantage compared to their non-menopausal peers.


Everybody will experience different symptoms and be affected by them in different ways, but it’s down to individuals and employers to find ways to manage them effectively within the workplace.


Creating Supportive and Inclusive Workplaces


When it comes to creating a supportive company culture, having a menopause policy is only the beginning. Helen told us that “All the policy does is start the conversation to change the culture of an organisation.” While that’s a brilliant thing, there is still a lot of work to be done afterwards.


Businesses need to offer manager training, safe spaces, support networks, etc. While managers are not intended to become counsellors or offer medical advice, having the knowledge to be able to adequately support someone in the workplace is an essential part of their role.


Reasonable adjustments are another key component of creating an inclusive workplace. Often there are no treatments available for menopausal symptoms, but small adjustments to expectations or environments in the workplace can make them more comfortable and accessible for someone who is going through the menopause. Asking each individual ‘What can I do to make things easier for you?’ will often be the most effective method of creating these adjustments, because everyone will experience the menopause differently. Helen said that a key thing to remember is to “not make assumptions about what will work for that person, because it’s a very personal thing”. Having individual conversations will also create a culture of open communication, which will benefit your whole team.


Another piece of advice that Helen shared was “don’t immediately go into solution mode”. While it’s human nature to try to help people, not every solution will be welcome to everybody. Helen gave us an anecdote which perfectly illustrated her point:


“When I was perimenopause,” she said, “I had really bad hot flushes. I worked in an office that was pretty much all glass, and it was a very hot summer, so it was like working in the greenhouse. I told my manager “I’m really hot. I’m having hot flushes”, then one morning he bought me a fan, and he put a sticker on it that said, ‘Helen’s fan, do not remove’. I thought it was fantastic.


Later everybody started saying, ‘Why have you got a fan and I haven’t got a fan?’, so I had to keep telling them ‘Oh, I’m having hot flushes’. If I’d been a less confident person, or it was something that I didn’t want people to know about, that could have really destroyed my confidence. So my advice would be to ask before you do something, don’t assume they’re gonna love a fan with their name on a sticker on it. It’s really important that you ask the question, and listen to the answer and act accordingly.”


What Can Women Do To Support Each Other?


Women represent 51% of the population, and around 44% of them struggle with severe or heavy periods. Until the stigma around these topics is destroyed, women are going to continue to struggle in silence.


Talking about and normalising menstrual and menopausal health is the beginning of creating an environment where women feel comfortable standing up for their needs in the workplace. This is particularly important for women who are in non-autonomous or semi-autonomous roles, particularly in care of client-facing positions where they don’t have the ability to leave when they need to.


Another benefit to talking about these topics is creating shared experiences and communities in the workplace. Helen said that “I absolutely thought that this was only happening to me. I see part of my role as having that conversation and normalising it so that if somebody was suffering with that, they don’t feel like they’re the only person.” Often the most common symptoms are the most difficult to talk about, but sharing your story can really help other people in a similar situation by helping them feel less alone. 


The Importance Of Menopause Policies


Helen and her team launched their Menopause Policy on World Menopause Day in 2022. At that time only 10% of companies in the UK had a policy to support people going through the menopause, so Helen started lobbying for the government to make it a legal requirement for organisations of over 250 people to have one. The Menopause Mandate and Women and Equalities Committee are currently working on a strategy for it.


However, Helen warns that a policy is only useful if an organisation doesn’t have a positive culture to begin with. She said that “If somebody came to me now and said, ‘Can I see the Adecco menopause policy, I would feel like I totally failed, because what it’s done is created a catalyst of events that has fundamentally changed the culture of the organisation.” The policy itself gives people a level of protection and support, but what’s genuinely needed is a change in cultures across the country.


Initiating Conversations Around Menopause


Helen’s advice to leaders is to get involved. Whether that’s with sharing your own experiences or learning from people in your organisation who have been through the menopause, being involved with the conversations in your company is important if you want to spearhead development in your culture. Seeing positive change and lack of stigma from the leadership team can help employees feel far more comfortable discussing their experiences and needs at work.


If you’re an employee who wants to raise the topic of the menopause at work, Helen’s suggestion was to do your homework and collect data first. If you’re able to back you requests with facts like ‘women over 50 are the fastest growing demographic in the workforce, and this is an issue that commonly affects them’, your leaders are far more likely to consider your requests. You can also raise topics like talent retention and lowering rates of women in leadership to support your argument, as menopausal health will have a direct impact on both of these areas, which makes menopause support an important cause for the business. Finally, creating a compliant and well-rounded EDI policy is both the right thing to do and a legal requirement, which is another compelling reason for leadership to get involved with supporting menopausal health.


Additional Resources


Women’s health is a multi-million-pound industry. There are so many resources available that there will be at least one that works for you in your environment. Within the workplace, Helen suggests utilising the following:


  • Inclusion brunches
  • Education sessions
  • Training sessions
  • Menopause cafes
  • Allyship programmes


Some places you might like to look for support are:



with Lauren Neighbours

Changing jobs can be an incredibly exciting time, leading to new opportunities to learn and develop… But you might not get the best salary right out of the gate. Unless you know how to negotiate effectively, you’re unlikely to get paid what you’re actually worth.

Katy Barber, one of our Lift Up Ambassadors, got together with Lauren Neighbours to learn her advice on ensuring you’re as prepared as possible for your next negotiation.

Lauren Neighbours, PhD, RAC, is Senior Vice President, Product Development and Regulatory Affairs for Checkpoint Therapeutics, Inc. At Checkpoint, Lauren has spearheaded their 2023 Biologics Licence Application submission to the US FDA for cosibelimab, for the potential treatment of advanced cutaneous squamous cell carcinoma.

Prior to joining Checkpoint, Lauren served in senior leadership roles at multiple life sciences companies, including Istari Oncology, Optum, and PSI CRO. Lauren is an accomplished scientist and regulatory affairs leader with experience managing multidisciplinary product development programs and numerous regulatory submissions among other accomplishments.

Lauren’s advice includes:

  • Get Informed Before Negotiations
  • Don’t Ask, Don’t Get
  • Build Your Support Network
  • Know When to Leave

Ensure You’re Informed Before the Negotiation

When it comes to negotiating, information is the greatest tool you can have in your arsenal. The right information can help you negotiate a better deal, and that isn’t just limited to salary. For instance, if you want to spend more time with loved ones, you may want flexible working or additional holiday days.

Lauren is also a Volunteer Advisor at 81cents, where she advises women on negotiating their pay at new or existing jobs. Some of the advice she provides centres around negotiating an increased salary, better benefits, or something specific their current employer is offering, if they’re looking to get promoted.

81cents was initially founded to try and close the pay gap, because in some industries, women are paid 81 cents on the dollar, compared to men. From there, it grew and expanded into other regions and industries — like the life sciences.

You Can Negotiate More Than Salary

Lauren suggests that many women don’t even realise what they can negotiate for. Some of the things she lists include:

  • Salary
  • Bonuses (different kinds)
  • Sign On Bonus
  • Relocation Costs
  • Equity
  • Vacation/Holiday Time

She explains that most people wouldn’t even consider some of these elements unless someone had given them that advice.

Don’t Ask, Don’t Get

Lauren also gave some advice that resonated with Deborah Wild’s advice on a previous Lift Up Live. If you don’t ask, you won’t get.

Women can feel shy, or lack the confidence to ask for salary increases that suit their position. Lauren herself admitted having these feelings throughout her own career, stating:

“You have a certain level of success and experience, but going after a new position or industry can make you feel uncomfortable. You have to get comfortable with being uncomfortable. It’s something that I’ve had to figure out over time.”

Accept Additional Tasks

In response, if you want to improve your confidence in your own abilities, one piece of actionable advice Lauren suggests is to accept additional responsibilities and opportunities. You can only learn by doing, and this is a great way to organically improve your confidence.

This must be done within reason. If you say “yes” to everything that comes your way, you can quickly put yourself under too much pressure. Try to ensure any extra projects you take on are manageable, but also stretch your abilities.

Build Your Support Network

Of course, taking on more tasks is just one way to improve confidence in your abilities. Another is to build and develop your mentors.

Mentors are an essential part of growth, and they can even be on your level. A mentor’s role is to help guide you through struggles. Often, they will have been through these same struggles too.

If you’ve encountered an issue in your career, your proximity to the situation can make it difficult to know how to proceed. A mentor is slightly removed from your situation, and should be able to give you more clarity, especially if you’re not fully recognising your own abilities.

It goes without saying, that your support network should be diverse. Men and women will offer different advice, suited to different scenarios. By having a more diverse network, you can benefit from different viewpoints. For instance, men are typically more willing to leverage their existing connections to land a role, whereas women aren’t always as comfortable doing that.

The best mentors won’t care about your gender, but about your character and merits. One of Lauren’s best mentors early in her career was David Shoemaker. He hired Lauren out of Graduate school, and into her first industry position. He helped Lauren find clarity in her career plan, frequently brought up opportunities, and set the foundation for the rest of her career.

Reassure Each Other

You aren’t the only one who questions their abilities, which is why it’s important you help reassure others in your network too. If we’re uncomfortable, it’s usually because we’re growing and learning. New can be scary,

If we want to continue working towards gender equity, we need to support each other — including the upcoming generations. Lauren revealed that she’s often met with questions by PhD-level students, or post-doctoral candidates, who are trying to build a career outside of academia.

The same questions frequently arise, such as how to:

  • Get your foot in the door,
  • Apply for roles with X years of necessary experience,
  • Transition between different industries,
  • Build ‘pre-requisite’ skills, like project management.


Reach Out to People

Lauren advises that one of the best things you can do for your career, is to reach out to people — especially if you’re shy.

Reaching out to people, and speaking to new people is an excellent way to build both your confidence, and your network. This network can prove invaluable for your career, especially when planning your next steps. Connections at a certain company can help you land an interview, or provide you with the actionable advice you need to improve.

Not everyone you reach out to will respond, and that’s okay. Someone will, and they’ll be able to advise you or point you towards someone else who can help.

Know When to Leave

You might be happy and comfortable in your current role, but if you want to advance your career, you need to know when to make a move. It’s extremely common for women in male-dominated industries to reach a glass ceiling.

If you feel that your progression is plateauing, or that you’ve progressed as far as you can in an organisation, it’s okay to leave.

Various factors can hold you back; from a lack of open positions, to not being properly valued. Changing employers is a big decision, but it’s one that can bring incredible benefits too. Weigh up your options, but don’t be afraid of opportunities just because you’re not a 100% fit.

Connect with Lauren

If you’re interested in learning more about negotiating and improving your career, we highly recommend connecting with Lauren on LinkedIn.

She offers exceptional advice about improving your career, and is certainly someone worth knowing!

One of our core values at Lift Up is championing other successful women, and one person we feel thoroughly deserves a spotlight is Doctor Anita Gupta.

As an active, practicing board-certified anaesthesiologist and physician-pharmacist, Anita Gupta is a prominent mind, especially matters of healthcare crises.

Recently, one of our Ambassadors, Alice Taylor, had the chance to speak with Dr Gupta, and really find out her professional history, along with some of her thoughts regarding leadership qualities and progression.

Who is Anita Gupta?

Dr Anita Gupta has had a fascinating professional journey, from starting as a Pharmacist, to working on the opioid crisis in America, and becoming one of the biggest names in health crisis matters. Her career is a rich and inspiring one, and we’re thrilled to be able to explore it with you.

Anita Gupta says her career really started as a Doctor in Philadelphia, working on the front line, handling serious issues and coming face-to-face with the Opioid Crisis, Chronic Pain, and Cancers.

It was her experiences in addressing serious opioid overdoses that led her to find that some of the solutions were already at hand in the hospital. She then worked alongside public officials to expand access to that antidote.

Ultimately, this led to Washington D.C., and drove policy changes to allow greater access and improve treatments.

Dr Gupta is now also a published author; her work has even been featured in the National Academies of Medicine’s Press.

Most Important Virtues for Success

Everyone has slightly different interpretations of which traits can bring success, so we were curious to learn Anita’s top picks. Here’s what she had to say.


One of the most important virtues is courage; particularly as a woman, sitting in a room with a lot of thought leaders and experts, it takes a lot of courage and bravery to speak.

Even more so, when you’re not sure what the right solution is. In that situation, there are many challenges facing you, and when the answers aren’t clear, that can become even harder.

“Whenever I’m handling a crisis, or in a boardroom full of uncertainty and stress, I always remember to be courageous.”

The ability to take action, even when fearful, can make a critical impact.


Especially in leadership positions, empathy is such a critical skill. Traditionally one that hasn’t always been involved, but it’s appearing more frequently over the last year or so.

Women are bringing empathy into leadership, and it’s one of the key traits that people look at, especially today.

Lessons Learned

Throughout her impressive career, Anita has had some big challenges and learned some valuable lessons. Here are the ones that stayed with her.

We’re Good Enough

It’s easy to fall into the false idea that we’re not good enough, but the truth is — we really are!

Women make fantastic leaders. Female-associated traits, like empathy and compassion, are only recently being seen more commonly in organisations, but that will change soon.

Anita continues, “we have the ability to lead, and that’s something women aren’t told enough”. Her point coincides with one of Lift Up’s founding principles; inspire.

We want to inspire women from across the Life Sciences, to fully realise their potential, and strive for it.

Becoming an Executive Leader

Anita Gupta attributes part of her determination to two words that have followed her throughout her career. They’ve been on her wall as a student, and they’re there when things get tough, so what are they?

“Don’t Quit.”

It sounds simple, but there’s always something ready to stop you — no matter what you do. You’ll experience many hurdles throughout your life, but you can’t give up. Anita came from an immigrant family, and had to climb multiple challenges to succeed.

That’s not to say you can’t change direction. If you’ve started down a path that isn’t right for you, it’s more than okay to switch to something better suited. But once you’ve found the thing you want to stick with, you have to put yourself 100% into that too.

We never stop growing; if times are getting tough, that’s your signal to keep going.

Leadership Programmes

While Leadership Programmes are often heralded as the perfect way to develop skills and get ahead, this isn’t always the case.

In fact, Anita Gupta has found that they can often be old-fashioned, focusing more on traditional skills rather than empathy and compassion. This can reinforce the idea that women need to change who they are to succeed.

We don’t.

Anita explains that whoever you are, there’s always a position for you somewhere. You will find a company that matches your principles, values you for who you are, and helps you grow.

It might take a few attempts to find where you fit in, but you will find it. Don’t settle for somewhere where you aren’t appreciated.

Dealing with Hurtful Comments

Throughout your life, people can say hurtful things, whether intentionally or otherwise.

Anita used to take these comments to heart, before she realised one crucial thing. Hurtful comments say more about them, than they do about you.

It can be a challenge not to let hurtful comments affect you, but typically these comments are more reactive than anything else. Trying to be empathetic and understand someone’s history can help you realise why they say certain things, and let it go.

Invite 3 Women to Dinner

We also had to ask this age-old question with a fun twist. Rather than just anyone, we asked Anita which three women she would invite to dinner. Here is her selection:

Indira Gandhi

Indira Gandhi has always been someone I’ve looked up to. My heritage is Indian, and her political career is fascinating; she led a formidable dynasty in India, while combatting many political challenges. and rose to become India’s first and only female Prime Minister.


I’d also be curious to meet Oprah. She’s another woman who has had a very difficult life, but pushed through and overcame those obstacles. Now she’s a huge success, living with purpose and meaning, while also inspiring others.

Eleanor Roosevelt

She’s amazing. She made many phenomenal changes in the US, including the Women’s Rights Movement. I’m just curious to hear what she’d have to say about what’s happening now.


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