BBJ: In life sciences, people of color are still ‘terribly’ underrepresented, MassBio report says

Dec 04, 2023

By Rowan Walrath, Life Sciences Reporter, Boston Business Journal

The following is an excerpt from the Boston Business Journal originally published on Friday, December 1, 2023:

Non-Asian people of color currently make up just 14% of the Massachusetts biopharma workforce, according to a new report on diversity, equity and inclusion from the trade group MassBio. That’s worse than in 2021, the last time MassBio published its DEI report, when non-Asian people of color stood at 15% of the life sciences industry, and well under the proportion of people of color — 32% — who make up Massachusetts’ population as a whole. (MassBio typically counts Asian people separately because they are overrepresented in the pharmaceutical industry.)

At the executive level, things are even worse. The percentage of white executives in the life sciences has actually increased in the last two years, from 63% to 76%. Asian executives made up 15% of management, up from 13%, while the portion of other people of color again slid, going from 8% to 6%.

And even as companies grow closer to gender equality, it’s white women who are advancing: Between 2021 and 2023, the percentage of Asian women and other women of color in executive management remained the same, at 7% and 3% respectively, while the portion of white women increased from 27% to 36%.

“The percentage of people of color in the workforce is still terribly under-representative of the Massachusetts population, and there is a continued reported underinvestment in DEI,” MassBio president and CEO Kendalle Burlin O’Connell said in a statement. “A lack of resources, bandwidth, and budget assigned to DEI is still holding us back.”


As for gender parity, MassBio’s report suggests some progress — but again, that is limited to white women. Women as a whole currently comprise about 52% of the entire Massachusetts biopharma workforce, 46% of executives and 33% of board members.

MassBio has made specific calls to action for its member companies: creating a diversity statement, setting up employee engagement surveys that ask questions about DEI and establishing “diversity dashboards” to measure their own demographics internally. Today, 75% of respondents have a diversity statement, up from 56% in 2021; 50% have a diversity dashboard or scorecard, up from 24% in 2021; and 61% have conducted employee engagement surveys with DEI-specific questions, up from 57% in 2021.

Read the full story in the Boston Business Journal.

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