Does Biotech Leadership have a glass ceiling?

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Does Biotech Leadership have a glass ceiling?
Does Biotech Leadership have a glass ceiling?

A Growing Industry Sector

The Biotech industry is one of the fasting growing sectors at almost 10% CAGR and is predicted to be worth over $750 billion by 2025.

In my role helping Biotech CEOs attract and hire executives to build their leadership teams, I can’t help but notice the lack of female leaders in the board room. And it isn’t just me who has noticed this – there have been several articles written in Biotech publications spotlighting the low number of people represented from minority backgrounds and women in significant leadership positions. While women in the industry are, in general, at a higher ratio than some other sectors – 65% in Pharma and Biotech compared to Tech (as low as 26%) or the Finance sector (46%) – women in top leadership positions are few and far between.  

That said, of the 10% of female CEOs within the sector, there is some real homegrown talent that we should applaud, and I am proud to have many of them in my network. I won’t address them individually, but these ladies are really at the top of their game in terms of driving growth and innovation within the organisations that they spearhead.

Let’s be clear though: I am not highlighting this sector as being a specific “hot spot” for gender inequalities. The gender gap at senior leadership levels is a well-documented one and has been for some time. There are still almost 25% of FTSE 500 companies who have no women in their executive committees. With so many highly qualified women possessing exemplary leadership abilities, why do they fail to rise to the top like their male counterparts?

It is evident that the obstacles to promotion seem greater as women move into more senior roles. Whether it be an unconscious bias that starts early in a girl’s life, the idea that women of childbearing age may have more family-orientated agendas, the isolation that comes with seniority, the self-limiting beliefs that are often more prevalent with women, the need to have more female role models in STEM fields – these are all contributing factors.

So, what does the future hold?

There have been several reports that Fortune 500 companies with diverse gender representation in their executive committees have a higher return on sales than those with fewer women by about 19%. If the financials need to do the talking, then this is a statistic cannot be overlooked!

Secondly, there are a number of initiatives led from the heart of the BIO committee that are actively looking to increase the number of women on executive boards to a minimum of 30% by 2025. This comes alongside vast improvements in networking events, resources and mentorship programmes all geared towards women in the industry. This not only allows participants to connect and collaborate with other women within their field, but it also creates a support network for those who do find the prospect of taking a significant leadership position daunting.

As I said at the start of this blog, there are undeniably some amazing women at the forefront of this industry, and we see the fruits of their leadership on a daily basis. But consider this for a moment – where could this sector be and what could it do if there was an even greater representation of women in leadership roles?

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