From Research to Action: Improving Gender Diversity in the Life Sciences Sector

Sep 21, 2017

In order for biopharma in Massachusetts to continue its success, diversity and inclusion cannot be just another initiative. It must be the backbone of company policy from the top down and reflected in recruitment, retention, and promotion strategies industry-wide.

Aside from being the right thing to do, there is ample reason for companies to seek diversity. Numerous studies are clear: more diverse businesses are more successful. Perhaps more importantly, companies cannot thrive without drawing from the best talent on earth – no matter their gender, ethnicity, or otherwise.

MassBio is proud to take a leadership role in driving increased diversity and inclusion. As part of our on-going efforts, MassBio partnered with Liftstream to develop a comprehensive study examining the cause behind the lack of gender diversity within the Massachusetts life sciences sector. This study will serve as a tool to guide the industry’s actions in the coming months and years to improve gender diversity at all career levels.

Breaking Down the Report: “Opening the Path to a Diverse Future”

Unlike other studies that offer a statistical snapshot of the participation of women in the life sciences sector, simply restating the problem, this study seeks to uncover the root of the problem from the perspective of companies and employees, and help identify exactly where in the talent pipeline potential women leaders are being lost. Although it focuses on Massachusetts, we believe that as the world’s leading biotechnology cluster, the findings presented here are reflective of the industry at-large.

The report’s primary conclusion? It’s an accumulation of factors that create a lack of gender diversity at all career levels, and it will take a concerted effort focused on numerous actions to break the cycle and make real change.

Some of the report’s most interesting stats:

  • Women take more deliberate action to move up the ladder, with 63% of C-level women reporting to change careers regularly to scale the ranks vs 21% of C-level men. 38.7% of women at the SVP or VP level frequently ask for promotions vs 12.5% of men.
  • 46% of women say they’d reject an employer because of having an all-male board, all-male management, and because they were interviewed only by men.
  • There is a major disconnect between what companies believe is working to improve diversity and what women see as happening in reality, with only 9% of women viewing their companies as fully inclusive vs 40% of companies claiming this.
  • Women at the SVP and VP levels, considered a prime talent source for the C-suite, are the most affected group.

How Can Companies Enact Change?

Change must start at the highest levels of management, and these leaders must remain committed to implementing and measuring the effect of various strategies to improve diversity. The first step is to join our community of people committed to gender diversity and download the report [hyperlink]. The next step is to examine the report and identify specific actions you and your company can take. MassBio will drive this forward for our community in the coming months by offering calls to action, invitations to relevant events, and windows into companies that have taking successful steps.  

The report includes 50 actionable solutions to improve participation of women, that all fall within seven broad approaches. The recommendations are meant to act as a loose guide, as one size does not fit all, and can be tailored for each company’s unique culture and structure. At the most basic level, companies must offer the necessary support for women to advance their careers, ensuring they have equal opportunity to develop the skills and experience needed to reach the C-suite. Chairpersons, board directors, board committees and executive management need to take full responsibility, and must communicate clearly the specific diversity goals and targets throughout the company. Even more, they need to make their goals public, and must report on their progress.

Over the next several months, MassBio will be asking companies to take specific actions, and we want to hear honest feedback. We will continue to lead by example while also advancing initiatives to ensure our industry and member companies are taking real, measurable actions to increase diversity and inclusion at every level of their companies.

We know progress will not happen overnight, but we’re excited to help get it right.  

Download the report today and commit yourself to enacting change.

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