Worcester Business Journal: Women’s representation on biopharma boards increases 164%, report finds

Nov 17, 2021

By Monica Benevides

Originally published in Worcester Business Journal on November 17, 2021

The number of women sitting on Massachusetts biopharmaceutical company boards has increased 164% since 2017, according to a new report from a voluntary survey conducted by industry group MassBio released Wednesday.

Women make up 37% of seats on boards at biopharma companies in-state as of 2021, compared to the 14% reported when MassBio conducted a similar survey four year years ago.

Survey respondents were signatories on MassBio’s Open Letter 2.0, The CEO Pledge for a More Equitable and Inclusive Life Sciences Industry, in 2020. Of the 222 companies that signed the letter, 85 responded to the survey.

“When CEOs were considering signing the Open Letter 2.0, we made it clear that it was not a ‘check-the-box’ measure, but rather a commitment to act and create lasting change,” said MassBIO CEO Joe Boncore, in a statement.

The letter comprised of a series of pledges, including commitments related to improving leadership and company culture, reevaluating recruitment processes, working on retention and employee development, diversifying suppliers, and implementing internal accountability measures related to diversity, equity, and inclusion.

As part of the pledge, MassBio promised to help provide its member companies with the tools to see through on those goals.

While women’s representation on boards increased, the 2021 survey results highlighted work yet to be done. For example, 56% of surveyed companies reported having company-wide DEI statements, and 56% reported completing an engagement survey including questions related to DEI. Less than a quarter have reported implementing a diversity dashboard to use as an internal baseline for diversity measurements.

“The companies that signed the Open Letter 2.0 have made a serious commitment to improving DEI at their companies,” said Warner Santiago, senior director of DEI and workforce development at MassBio, in a statement. “Yet, when foundational DEI measures such as diversity dashboards and engagement surveys are not widely adopted, we know there is room for improvement especially in the areas of inclusion and equity – a key component to any successful DEI initiative.”

Although there is still room for improvement, the report will be used as a benchmark to track industry progress over time.

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