- Few women or people of color are in leadership positions at some 100 biotech companies surveyed by the trade group BIO, which issued a new report Thursday that draws attention to the lackluster diversity at the top ranks of the industry.
- While women typically make up about half of the surveyed companies' workforces, on average only 30% of executive positions and just 18% of board seats are held by women. Roughly four-fifths of CEOs were men and almost 90% were white, the survey found.
- BIO has made increasing diversity a goal for the industry, but the report shows how far companies still need to go to meet the group's targets of gender parity among company leadership and 30% female board membership.
BIO's report calls attention to a problem that's persisted despite increased scrutiny and new initiatives from the trade group and its members.
The survey's findings largely match an analysis by BioPharma Dive last year that counted just 15 female CEOs among the 180 largest pharmaceutical and biotech companies.
Compared to the companies included in that analysis, the 107 biotechs contacted by BIO were generally smaller and nearly half were private.
Although smaller biotechs tended to have more women and people of color as executives than larger drugmakers, representation was still imbalanced across companies of all sizes.
Few women, people of color among biotech leaders
|Position||% held by women||% held by people of color|
BIO, "Measuring Diversity in the Biotech Industry," January 2020
Strikingly, only 17% of 97 responding companies had formal diversity and inclusion programs in place, although that figure rose to 41% among biotechs with more than 100 employees.
Overall, 16% of companies had set goals to promote or develop women, and only 12% had set goals for promoting or developing people of color.
"The essence of science, of biotechnology, of drug development is innovative thinking," said Reshma Kewalramani, the incoming CEO of Vertex Pharmaceuticals, in a video put out by BIO.
"There is no way to have this innovative, different way of thinking, solving problems that have never been solved before, if everyone is the same, either by background, or gender or ethnicity."
BIO has put out to its member companies tipsheets and presentations about diversity, and rolled out a website called the BIO Boardlist that lists diverse candidates for consideration to be included on company boards.
Jeremy Levin, the group's chair, told BioPharma Dive last year that improving diversity was a priority for him. But some executives have said they want more from the group.
"The progress I've seen is mostly that we're talking about it now," Lisa Suennen, a health venture capitalist and managing director at law firm Manatt, Phelps & Phillips, told BioPharma Dive last year.
"My caution is at the rate we are going, I'll be long dead by the time the numbers change fundamentally. It's just too slow."