Licensing & Ventures Group


‘Women Building Bio’ Conference as Valuable as Ever

LVG staffers reflect on 2022 event held in Norfolk

Oct. 3, 2022


LVG Communications

It’s no secret that, historically, women have been underrepresented in the biotech industry. According to a report last year in the Boston Business Journal, just under 6% of biotech CEOs were women and 14% were board members.

That’s what makes conferences like last week’s “Women Building Bio” – which was attended by University of Virginia Licensing & Ventures Group team members Cortney Mushill, Jay Hyun-Jung Lee and Lakshmi Narayanan – so valuable.

Held in Norfolk and presented by Virginia Bio, the seventh annual event consisted of inspiring presentations from life sciences professionals, a panel Q&A and an opportunity to connect and network for a career in one of the fastest-growing biotech regions in the nation.

Afterward, LVG Communications caught up with Mushill, Hyun-Jung Lee and Narayanan to hear about their experiences.

Q. One of the major topics at this year’s conference involved the unforeseen challenges for women working in the biotech industry over the last couple of years. Can you share some of the discussions?

LN: The discussions mainly revolved around the general challenges in biotech industry and how our women leaders can help fill the gap. Also, some speakers did bring up specific challenges they face, such as being the only women at the table, making sure they are being heard and having to educate the group on health issues faced by women that can potentially be resolved by science.

CM: Being the only woman in the room or at the table, you must be confident in your value and speak up to be heard.

JL: As an underrepresented group, knowing the right contact points and resources is challenging. Of course, balancing family and work has always been a challenge.

Q. Was there anything you learned or perhaps something that surprised you that will inform your work as a UVA LVG licensing team member moving forward?

CM: Kindness and use of your own network to help others is FREE! Being introduced to or introducing someone else to a credible person establishes a good start to a new connection.

Investors are a good source for building your network because they are invested in your success. Use “No” as an opportunity. Ask, “Why no?” The answer could be, “Not yet,” and lead to, “Can I follow up with you once I’ve done X, Y, and Z? Who else can I talk to, if not to you?”

JL: It was a wonderful opportunity to learn about the biotech ecosystem in Virginia, especially around Norfolk-ODU and Virginia Beach. Recruiting more tech-related conferences or fairs to Charlottesville would be helpful to promote Charlottesville’s ecosystem.

Q. What were your biggest takeaways from the conference? 

JL: Be curious about others and form networks through curiosity. We can overcome the challenges by networking and being mentor-mentee to each other. 

CM: The panelists were all very inspiring. They have clear visions and passion for what they do, and even if that leads them into uncomfortable territory or uncharted waters, it is worth the journey to get where they are today. Be your own advocate – you know your worth, skills and what you can bring to the table.

LN: My biggest takeaway is that each of us has a unique journey, and we must honor our personal path, give it our best and keep marching forward.