Member Spotlight: Q&A with Bench International

Mar 01, 2021

Every month, MassBio spotlights a member company and the great work they’re doing to advance the life sciences industry and support the patients we serve. In March, we spoke with Nova Diop, General Manager, Bench International, who is leading the expansion of Bench’s footprint in Boston. Nova has six years of experience in executive search and ten years of combined experience in hospitality operations in the UK and strategy consulting in Boston.

Tell us about your organization, its mission, and current initiatives

Bench International is a premier woman-founded and owned, global retained executive search firm serving the Life Sciences (including pharmaceuticals, biotechnology, diagnostics, devices, and instrumentation) Healthcare, and Animal Health sectors for over 45 years. The firm is one of the most renowned experts in diversity recruitment at the board and executive level. Sharing our clients’ patient-centric focus, Bench’s mission is to make life changing placements so our clients can change lives!®

Our initiatives for 2021 are centered around supporting our clients in finding and cultivating diverse leaders, as the shareholders, doctors, and patients depend on them to bring forward the next generation of medicines and technologies. Life sciences companies have increased their focus on diversity, equity, and inclusion at the highest levels of the organizations. At the same time, recent legislation and guidance have required Boards to increase the number of women and underrepresented groups, and Bench is proud to leverage our network of life sciences leaders to address these issues and bring fresh perspectives and new ideas to the table.

How does your organization’s activities help patients now and into the future?

Although many factors determine success in the life sciences industry, some of which are out of our control, the right leader can be the difference in whether a promising drug reaches a patient or remains relegated to the “shelf.” Persistence, perseverance, and, what we like to call “generosity of spirit,” are a few of the criteria that we are consistently evaluating for our clients.

Representing the voice and face of the patient at the executive and Board-level within biotech and pharma has been a critical goal throughout our history. For example, we have co-created Chief Patient Officer roles within the pharmaceutical industry, who were responsible for guiding the company to ensure patient-centric clinical trials. When recently recruiting for a CEO to lead a breast cancer detection startup, we were inspired by the passion and stories of the women leaders, who were too often directly or indirectly battling the disease. 

We have been fortunate over the last several decades to see the impact of our work on the industry. Individuals that we brought into industry grew to become C-level leaders and are now often board members imparting their guidance and wisdom. We are humbled by the contributions that they have made to patients around the world, and it motivates us to continue to find and build the next generation of leaders.

What do you see as the biggest challenge facing the life sciences industry today?

One of the biggest challenges facing the life science industry is closing the diversity gap with talented leaders, who also happen to be female, Black, Latinx, LGBTQ, and other historically underrepresented groups.

We recently announced the launch of our proprietary Bank of Women®, a program that features 550+ executive women leaders for board seats and the C-suite. Empowering female leaders has been a career-long commitment of Bench’s CEO and Founder, DeeDee DeMan. As a result, Bench has been building this cohort of exceptionally qualified female leaders for over 30 years. The introduction of Bank of Women® represents a unique and innovative opportunity for the life sciences industry to recruit experienced women leaders for their C-suite and board of director positions.

Our commitment to diversity also includes building key local alliances and creating partnership with specific platforms that contribute to the life sciences industry. Our memberships and sponsorship include New England Healthcare Executive Network, Life Science Cares, Women in Bio, Massachusetts Biotechnology Council and BioNJ.

What’s next for your organization / what are you focused on in the coming year?

Bench’s main focus is to continuously bring quality and diverse leaders at the board level, C-suite, and senior leadership team to our clients, while closing the diversity gaps. Since the inception of the firm, 33% of all leaders placed in Bench’s 45+ year history have been gender and ethnically diverse. We signed the MassBio CEO pledge to continue our impact in ensuring a diverse pool of candidates, while assisting our clients in hiring the best athletes.

Time is critical for patients and our clients, and we are focused on developing robust candidate slates rapidly and efficiently, while maintaining our commitment to a personal, and high-touch process. Our clients are building their leadership teams, and at times entire companies de novo, and they require unique talent within a short timeframe.

Bench leverages our research, operations, and recruitment teams using our “One Global Team, No Borders, No Boundaries” approach to best serve our clients. Furthermore, Bench invests in its own IT security solutions to vigilantly design and maintain firewalls, as well as layers of data security lockdown.

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