Pharmaniaga’s Farshila Emran on Why The Empathetic Leader Is the Best Leader


Pharmaniaga’s Farshila Emran: The Best Has Bags of Empathy; Man or Woman MD

Pharmaniaga Managing Director Datuk Farshila Emran opens up on her work philosophy. The sole lady boss of a Malaysian GLC says that today’s workplace environment calls for a more intuitive approach to management - one that is largely linked to empathy.

Transmission equipments and pharmaceutical products are what many may consider to be at opposite ends of the business spectrum.

So, a career jump from one to the other, would not only be challenging, but a frightening prospect as well. But for Datuk Farshila Emran, it comes down to seizing opportunities when they come along. 

“When presented with an opportunity, you can make it a loss, or you can make it great.”

“Sometimes, you stumble upon many opportunities and what you need to do is just to work hard at that opportunity. You also have to be creative.”

Farshila was reminiscing the time in 2001, where she dived headlong into the pharmaceutical industry by starting up Idaman Pharma, after spending over a decade as representative with SEVES Sediver, a French public listed high voltage transmission line equipment company.

And the same philosophy of ‘seizing opportunities and not running away from hard work’ was what led the 52-year-old to where she is today - managing Malaysia's largest listed integrated pharmaceutical group, Pharmaniaga.

“I am the only woman head of a government-linked company. I am very proud of it and when I met other GLC heads, never would anyone look at me (and say) ‘Oh? You’re a woman!,” says Farshila at the sidelines of RoseKL 2018, a gathering of inspiring women leaders.

For Farshila, gender has nothing to do with one's success. Empathy, meanwhile, goes a long way to enabling a work culture that help employees to thrive.

“You don’t have to be a woman to have empathy, to be that motherly and fatherly figure,” says Farshila, “There are many initiatives that I am doing.  Because I am a woman, I am a  mother, at times you position yourself ‘If you’re a mother, what would you want? So, the empathy level is totally different.”

“Be it as a woman MD or a man MD - if you understand and put yourself in the your employees’ position, you can execute better direction.”

Pharmaniaga has close to a 2000-strong workforce, with almost equal gender representation in the company.

Apart from flexible working hours, Pharmaniaga introduced five day paternity leave to enable fathers to spend more time with their newborns. Employees also get a day off from work on their birthdays, “I tell them, ‘be with your family on your birthday!”, says Farshila.

“They are many talented people out there, there are many talented women. The only thing is that, you must know what kind of work you want to do and the responsibilities (that comes with it).