As the founding president and CEO of BioNJ, Debbie Hart works to ensure that scientific research is supported, new companies are created, and drugs are developed. The impetus behind all this is the desire to address the unmet needs of medical patients. In Hart’s words: “Patients are paramount.”

To this end, her organization is hosting the upcoming conference, “Inspiring Women In STEM,” which is designed to give working professionals and college students actionable ideas and guidance to support their career paths while making a positive difference in the field of life sciences.

The conference, which takes place Friday, December 1, from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Sanofi in Bridgewater, is aimed at women from biotechnology, pharmaceutical, chemistry, medical device, and technology companies, law firms, universities, and medical and research institutions. Register online at www.bionj.org or call 609-890-3185.

The “Inspiring Women in STEM Conference” grew out of a specific need, says Hart. Women are looking to connect with others in the field, to make contributions, to advance their careers, and also to help other women. The conference includes four presentations:

Creating the Best Places to Work for Women. The consulting firm McKinsey & Company will present its “Women in the Workplace Survey,” conducted in partnership with LeanIn.org. A panel of company leaders will speak about women leadership and gender equality in the workplace.

Making the Most of a Women’s Network. A panel of leaders will discuss women’s employee resource groups. Topics include funding, corporate sponsorship, and insights on crafting meaningful programming. Participants will learn how to build and manage a formal women’s network and how to get the most out of participating in one.

How to Stay on the Edge of Innovation. Participants will learn how to start a new business, be a successful innovator in an established organization, and navigate the intersection of large pharma and biotech industries.

A Conversation with STEM Leaders. In this signature session, women leaders will share personal stories of inspiration, determination and grace.

The conference also includes networking breaks and an exhibitor showcase.

The founder of the “Inspiring Women in STEM” brand, Jennifer Kmiec, has worked in the industry for more than 20 years. She is the associate director of The Committee of 100, a Wilmington, Delaware, business organization, is the co-chair of Million Women Mentors, Delaware, and serves on the external advisory board of Delaware Small Business Development Center.

This is the third year Kmiec has joined forces with Hart and Bio NJ to host the conference. A big reason people come to this conference and other events the organization offers is for networking, Hart says. Other events hosted by BioNJ include forums and conferences on compliance and regulation, patient advocacy, human resources, entrepreneurship, bio partnering, purchasing, and sessions for CEOs and CFOs.

Education and networking comprise one of the four pillars on which BioNJ stands, Hart says. The other pillars include public policy, workforce solutions, and member services. In terms of public policy, BioNJ has helped develop the Therapeutic Discovery Project Credit which helped deliver $1 billion to the industry. The organization works with the Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO) on several issues, including biosimilars, the Patient Drug User Fee Act, the Jobs Act, and Medicare.

On a state level, BioNJ conceived of and advanced the Technology Business Tax Certificate Program and is working on several other initiatives that include retaining and relocating businesses in the state, tax credits for angel investors, establishing a life science fund, and encouraging economic development.

BioNJ helps member companies cut operating costs through offering reduced pricing on lab supplies, office needs and shipping. Working with BIO, it offers reduced rates on insurance, technology products, 401K plans, and other services.

For those looking to advance their careers, BioNJ offers networking, job fairs, events, and information on careers and industry trends, professional development, and job listings.

Although the four pillars involve a wide range of endeavors, they each have a common motivation: the patient. BioNJ’s goal, Hart says, is to ensure that patients receive the care they need, that they receive treatments that represent the best available for their conditions, and that they are treated promptly. One of BioNJ’s mottos is, “We are impatient for patients.”

Hart comes from a family that finds value in working for the state. Her mother was a purchasing agent for New Jersey’s Office of Administrative Law, and her father worked in law enforcement for the Mercer County sheriff’s office. “They have influenced everything in my life and still continue to do so even though they are no longer with us,” she says.

In large part because of Hart’s work through BioNJ since it was formed in 1994, she was appointed by Governor Chris Christie to the New Jersey Commission on Higher Education and Business Partnerships, and was appointed to the New Jersey Biotechnology Task Force. She is also a founding board member and officer of OpportunityNJ, a non-profit organization working toward a strong and sustainable state economy. She is also on the board of the New Jersey Chamber of Commerce and is a member of the board of directors for Choose New Jersey.

A strong advocate for education, Hart has served as a board member of the Rutgers University Blanche and Irwin Lerner Center for the Study of Pharmaceutical Management. She has served in advisory capacities for several academic institutions including Rider University, New Jersey Institute of Technology, and several others. Hart is a former director of the Liberty Science Center’s Women’s Leadership Council.

When asked to speak on one of her goals for BioNJ and the motivation for hosting the “Inspiring Women in STEM Conference,” she answers succinctly: “We want to create pathways for women in science.”

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