Dr. Nancy Gray has more than thirty years of experience in biomedical industries, including medicinal chemistry research, management of pharmaceutical research and development, and business operations. Dr. Gray came to UAMS from the Southern Research Institute in Birmingham, Alabama, where she was vice president for corporate development.There, she led corporate development opportunities, including mergers and acquisitions, strategic alliances, joint ventures, minority investments, technology licenses and divestitures for the life sciences, engineering, and environment and energy business. Dr.Gray completed one joint venture agreement, 30 license agreements and 37 collaboration agreements. She also led the turnaround of infectious diseases contract services business, increasing revenue by $7 million and profit by $1.2 million in three years.
She is leading inspiration for girls and women to participate in STEM programs. She often says, she didn’t know why she decided to become a chemist in the 10th grade because she hadn’t even taken a chemistry course at that time. However, in her senior year of high school, she took her first chemistry class with Ms. Josephine Nied ad my teacher in Trenton, NJ. She knew that she was considering a career in chemistry and her mentor took her to a few networking events and lectures that were offered through the American Chemical Society (ACS). Then, in her freshman year of college, she took Organic Chemistry taught by Dr. Harold Heine, the first recipient of the ACS Award for research at an undergraduate institution. From that time on, she was hooked.
The biggest professional challenge she faced actually occurred before she even got started. She was asked by a collection of faculty, including the head of her department, to quit her graduate program because she had a child during my 4th year in graduate school. Her husband was also a graduate student in the same department and they were sharing childcare responsibilities. That challenge was quickly overcome when her husband offered to quit so that she could continue. The faculty members withdrew their request and they both earned our PhD.
Speaking about progress of women in science, Dr.Gray says, “Things have definitely gotten better for women in chemistry, particularly in education. Women are now mentored – a rarity when I was training. Also, family leave is now an acceptable practice, so women do not feel like they need to leave their training if they have children. Additionally, women are more visible as scientists at national and international meetings, so that symbolizes a more accepting environment. Also, women have banded together to mentor each other and created focused organizations to address head-on remaining gender-specific issues.”
She also added, “Yes. If one looks at the various salary surveys, females still lag behind males in compensation. In the biotechnology industry, there are only a few female CEOs. Looking at the large technology companies, female representation in the Board room is severely limited. Also, in industrial research, females only represent 4.2% of all inventors and earn about 14% less than their male peers.”
As a leading women in science was not easy, Dr Nancy had to make a lot sacrifices. When talking about work life balance, When my kids were young and at home, she made sure that at least one parent attended all sporting events, performances, teacher meetings etc. She and her husband also used all of our vacation time each year to maximize family time. Also, as noted earlier, her husband actually offered to sacrifice his degree so that she could continue her studies. Support doesn’t come any stronger than that.
Dr Nancy mantra to success – “Don’t take “can’t” for an answer! Have confidence in your capabilities and don’t hesitate to aggressively pursue your goals.” This will serve as an inspiration to millions of women around the world to pursue their career in science and make an impact on this world.