In October of 2009, the Center for American Progress reported that women made up half of the U.S. workforce for the first time in history. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity reports that around half of employees in the pharmaceutical and medical industry are women. However, men still hold the majority of board level and C-level positions in the pharma industry. In fact, according to the Healthcare Business Women's Association's E.D.G.E. (Empowerment, Diversity, Growth, Excellence) in Leadership study, women held just 17% of senior management positions and 34% of middle management positions.
Looking at the biotech/biopharm industry as a whole, there is greater representation of women in senior roles at smaller biotech companies than within big pharma. Women researchers are eight times more likely to run independent labs in biotech firms than in traditional settings like universities and large pharmaceutical companies. Some reasons cited are due to the cultural differences between large pharma and biotech. Within the smaller biotech environment, there's less of a political hierarchy and more external placements as opposed to evolution through the internal networking that is found in larger companies.
The biopharm industry in general is very successful, so why does this matter? Companies have an imperative to reflect both their customer base and their workforce, both of which are largely female for healthcare companies. Also, according to a study conducted by the Centre for Women in Business at the London Business School, more innovation comes from teams with equal proportions of men and women and these teams reported feeling "safer" and "more confident". From a financial standpoint, a study by Catalyst found that companies with a higher proportion of women in senior positions had a higher return on equity and return to shareholders.
Pharma companies that truly examine their company culture for roadblocks to the advancement of women into senior management roles — will benefit from attracting and keeping the best talent as well as decrease the management gender gap.