Female Leadership in Science, Business and Society

The Falling Walls Foundation and the Bayer Foundation invited to a mutual networking event in July 2021. The Female Science Talents Gathering offered all participants discussion formats that allow insightful connections with outstanding female leaders and scientists.

We were happy to welcome three powerful female leaders for an hour-long discussion with acclaimed journalist Louisa Reichstetter: Dr. Monika Lessl, Dr. Ingrid Wünning-Tschol and Dr. Sandra Milligan.

Needless to say, our leaders dove right in, answering questions on how to enable female leadership in science, how to deal with dominant male PIs, and how to find the right collaborators on your way to (scientific) success. In regards to the last question, our experts shared from their rich experience of being a female leader in a male-dominated workplace: “Look for affirmative personalities”, Dr. Milligan proposed. “Put yourself in their shoes and always ask why they want to work with you, what is their agenda”, Ingrid Wünning-Tschol added.

The key topic, however, turned out to be one that is all too familiar for every female science talent: The inescapable division of work and family life. Our leaders did not hesitate to answer questions on how to keep a good work-life-balance and how to be both a great mother and a great scientist. And while there may never be a perfect time to get kids, Ingrid Wünning-Tschol’s advice is simple: “Just do it.”


Monika Lessl

Bayer Foundation

Monika Lessl is Executive Director of the Bayer Foundation and Head of Corporate R&D and Social Innovation at Bayer AG. She is a member of Bayer’s Global R&D Executive Committee and the Global Medical and Regulatory Governance committee. Her focus is on driving organizational and societal transformation by strengthening the role of science and promoting innovation and sustainability through strategic initiatives, governance processes and partnerships.

She is a Board member of the Futurium, Berlin’s museum of the future and acts as a jury member of the European Innovation Council and the German Ministry of Science and Education. She holds a PhD in Biochemistry from the Max Planck Institute for Molecular Genetics in Berlin, a Diploma in General Management from Ashridge Business School, London and is a former fellow of the Robert Bosch Foundation. Next to her research work she published a number of articles on collaborative innovation, entrepreneurship and business transformation in leading journals like Harvard Business Review. She and her team were awarded as finalists for the “Master of Reinvention Award” of the London Business School” in 2018 and “The best Innovation team award” by Fast Company in 2020.

In her former role as Head of Innovation Strategy she developed and led Bayer’s Innovation Agenda to strengthen Bayer’s Innovation capabilities and foster new business models. As Head of External Innovation Therapeutics at Bayer’s pharmaceutical division she was responsible for creating the external innovation strategy and leading global partnering activities. Prior to this, she was CEO of the Ernst Schering Foundation and led as a research team in the area of women’s health at Schering AG.