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International Women’s Day: Celebrating Women at Commercial Eyes

By Emma Curry

To celebrate International Women’s Day, we have taken a look back at all the wonderful women that have come, gone and stayed over the years, that have contributed to the growth and development of Commercial Eyes.

From the beginning, the company has been a workplace that has embraced and rewarded women for the great work that they do.

“When I started Commercial Eyes, my goal was simple – to build a great business”

says Managing Director and Founder, Andrew Carter.

When Commercial Eyes began in 2001, it was not common practice to use a business model that allowed flexibility in when staff worked and where they worked from.

However, when creating the business model for the company, Carter noticed that clients were not overly concerned about when the work was being done, just as long as it was “completed on time and to a high standard.”

“At the time, the pharmaceutical industry generally wasn’t receptive to part timers, wasn’t very family friendly or keen to embrace the flexible work model,” Carter explains.

For women, particularly those looking to return to work after maternity leave, this business model resonated greatly with them and gave them the opportunity to work in a way that suited their needs around motherhood.

“The women who joined Commercial Eyes, embraced the business model and told their friends (mostly women). Before long, I was being introduced to lots of highly qualified women who wanted to work in the business,” Carter says.

Currently, almost 80 per cent of the company’s staff are women, with the leadership team and manager roles also comprising mostly of women.

“Commercial Eyes, for many women, is a place they feel valued because they have a major say in what and how things are done and they are recognised for what they do, not for who they are,” Carter states.

As the business grew and more management and leadership roles were required, Carter looked within the company’s existing staff who already knew how the business ran, providing the opportunity for them to develop in their careers and progress into those roles.

“The women working at Commercial Eyes consistently demonstrated an aptitude for consulting and providing commercialisation services, along with great customer service,” Carter explains.

“It was appropriate and predictable that the women who knew and understood the business model and had developed over the years would be suitable for management and leadership roles when they were created, and they were.”

Almost 21 years later, this business model is still in place, supporting women who want both a family and the career.

Executive Director, Melissa Sampson-Curry, started at Commercial Eyes in 2003 after taking an extended break from the workforce after having her second child and has played an integral part in the growth and development of the business.

She says that the appeal in working at Commercial Eyes during that time was the “flexible, part-time work hours that worked for [her] around school pickups” and that early on she recognised how the company supported and rewarded women.

“From the moment I joined the business I noticed women were valued and respected, differently from my previous career in banking and finance”

Sampson-Curry explains.

“The company had a family culture in the early years [and] the workplace was mostly mums with young children working part-time.”

As her own children grew up and she was able to take on more hours, Sampson-Curry was provided the opportunity to take on further responsibility and over the years developed in her career and worked up to her current position as a director.

When asked what advice she has for women looking to progress into a leadership position, Sampson-Curry says to “work hard, build trust and loyalty, learn and understand what the business needs to be successful, [it] all takes time…years!”

“You need to live the ups and downs and stick with it. For me, these were key to growing into a position where I could make a difference and be part of the company leadership.”

Wenna Zhang has been at Commercial Eyes for over 10 years and since returning from maternity leave in late 2021 after having her first child, she has stepped into the position of Head of Medical Information. 

She says that the company has been greatly supportive upon her return back to work while she balances the time with her new role as being a mother.

“The company has been very flexible with me, especially when I came back, I became part time just because of [my daughter’s] childcare arrangements and I [am] really grateful that has been taken on board straight away,” Zhang states.

She further says that with having so many other women within the company and at the leadership level, she feels there is a better understanding of the requirements and needs around motherhood among those at the lower levels.

Since becoming a mother herself, it has also helped her to further understand the needs required with having young children and continuing to work in the industry.

“I definitely feel like after I became a mum, I understood all the requirements [such as] ‘can I please log back online later and duck out for the childcare arrangement’ for example”

Zhang explains.

Though there is so much flexibility in the way staff work around their personal needs, Zhang feels that the standard of work continues to remain high, and clients continue to remain happy.

“We still produce a great piece of work, we still help each other, still make sure the department is running as well as it can be, still make sure the client is happy with us.”

Natasha Sharma started at Commercial Eyes early 2021 on the graduate program and says that the number of women at the company was something she noticed during the application process. 

“It stood out to me because a majority female leadership team was not something I had observed before in any of the other companies I had researched or been exposed to,” Sharma states.

She explains that as a young woman at a company with so many women at the leadership level, she feels as though it “creates a very different type of workplace culture that places emphasis on wellbeing and collaboration.”

“Many of my female peers have discussed the sexism and gender pay gaps they have experienced first-hand working in a number of scientific industries, and I appreciate the fact that this hasn’t been something I’ve had to worry about in my workplace.”

She further explains how inspiring it is to see the success of women within Commercial Eyes and at the leadership level, saying it has provided her with optimism about her own career journey at the company.

“Women are an incredibly valuable asset to any industry [and] if it’s something you’re passionate about then the industry is better off for having you in it”

Sharma expresses

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