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Closing the gender gap: Q&A with Ffyona Dawber

Closing the gender gap: Q&A with Ffyona Dawber

Ffyona Dawber, founder and managing director of Synergy Vision, is one of the leading women in UK healthcare communications

Ffyona Dawber, founder and managing director of Synergy Vision, is one of the leading women in UK healthcare communications. Towards the end of 2014 she received double honours at the Stevie Awards for Women in Business. She won gold for ‘Female Entrepreneur of the Year - Business Services - 11 to 2,500 Employees’ category and silver for ‘Woman of the Year – Business Services’.

How did it feel to be recognised at the Stevie Awards?

It was a thrill. But I think, overall, the recognition from clients when we get repeat business and they come back with positive feedback that’s somewhat nicer because then you know you’re doing a good job. The awards are the cherry on the top of the cake.

Is there still a need to recognise women in business through awards?

It would be a nice long-term strategy to stop referring to ‘women in business’ and hopefully in a few years’ time there will come a point where we don’t divide entrepreneurial people by gender. But at the moment I think there needs to be some encouragement and some role models.

What needs to be done to support women working in the pharma business?

There are a lot of women in healthcare communications but not necessarily in healthcare and science and that needs to change. I’m a member of WISE (Women in Science and Engineering) and we do a lot to promote science in schools, getting girls involved and not being afraid to be seen doing ‘masculine’ subjects.


And although there are many women in comms they are not necessarily in senior roles, we see that in pharma as well. What’s stopping women going to the top? I think there needs be a lot more flexibility. I now have three children and I realise how flexible you have to be – you have to get that work-life balance right. We have some very senior people who work part-time, but also graduates who have different needs.

You also have experience on the industry side at GSK. How do you find the comparison between industry and agency?

The key thing is about culture and attitude. A small company allows you to have a shift in culture. By launching my own business I was able to develop the culture from scratch and then recruit people who added to that culture. You don’t have that flexibility when you are in a big business where you are constrained by policies and bureaucracy. At a small company you can individually tailor things to suit people’s needs. You get to make decisions faster.

How do you see the role of women in healthcare changing over the next few years?

I think it does have to be normalised. There is a new group to the UK called the Healthcare Businesswomen’s Association (HBA) that is dedicated to advance the role of women in healthcare. I was in two minds when someone asked me to join - I thought perhaps we shouldn’t distinguish gender in that way, but at the moment women do still seem to need that support until we get to that point. Women do need these groups and a large part of the problem stems from having little education on science and business at an early age.