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Woman of the Week: Bristol Myers Squibb’s Ester Banque

Welcome to the Woman of the Week podcast, a weekly discussion that illuminates the unique stories of women leaders who are catalyzing change throughout the life sciences industry. You can check out all our podcast episodes here.

As a child, Ester Banque dreamed that she would have the opportunity to play for Spain’s national soccer team. And despite major obstacles — she was the only girl in her school who played soccer — she persevered.

“Every night, I pictured myself playing with the national shirt and then scoring goals and it happened,” she said.

Today, Banque is still scoring goals. After 30 years and the launch of several blockbusters across 90 countries, she now leads a multinational and multimillion-dollar franchise for Bristol Myers Squibb as senior vice president and general manager of hematology in the U.S.

“This business contributes one-third to the global net sales of our company, so it is a very relevant business,” Banque said. “It’s a portfolio that’s in transformation … (with) 10 brands — all of them are medicines to help patients who have hematological malignancy conditions. We know that the work that we do help(s) patients every day by extending their lives and improving their lives.”

Banque noted that she has been very fortunate to have worked at two major companies, Bristol Myers Squibb for four years now and Novartis for 25 years, which is where she started her career. Her professional journey has included stints in Spain, the U.K., Switzerland, Germany and the U.S., and has provided the her with a unique perspective in the healthcare industry.

“You learn so much about different healthcare systems, government priorities, regulatory bodies, cultures (and) realities,” she said. “But the one common theme across all those realities is access of innovation to patients, which continues to be a challenge. Understanding so many differences helped me build a lot of best practices or different models … and perspectives into my jobs.”

Inclusion is particularly important to Banque, who noted that over the years she found her authentic voice and changed her leadership style to embody her whole self.

“When I started my career, I would mimic the leadership I would see around me, which was quite male-dominated back then in Spain,” she said. “I was fierce and I was decisive, all those great attributes that you need in business and in any company. But I was missing something I knew I had, which is (an) even bigger heart. And it was years of personal development that made me realize that I am a whole being. I’m not only a brain. I’m not only a heart. I’m both. And by the way, a lot of guts because I have a lot of emotion too. I’m (a) whole person and everybody is. I was in the closet for 17 years. And when I came out, naturally I embraced who I am as a person and what I can bring to people. And the balance between the heart and the mind made me not only happier, but also express myself more authentically.”

In this episode of the Woman of the Week podcast, Banque discussed how her global experience influenced her career and family life, why leveraging digital capabilities to launch new products is producing efficiency across multiple brands and why creating an environment that fosters innovation can lead to scientific transformation.

In this episode, Taren Grom, editor-in-chief Emeritus at PharmaVoice meets with Ester Banque, senior VP and general manager, US Hematology, Bristol Myers Squibb.

Taren: Ester, welcome to the WoW podcast program.

Ester: Thank you for having me. I’m really looking forward to this conversation.

Taren: I as well. Ester, can you please share a bit about what your role is as senior VP and GM of hematology, what does it entail?

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