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Women in Biotech: is the industry opening up?

Posted on: 11 Jan

Over the past decade, diversity has become a buzzword across all sectors of business. Companies are investing more money and time than ever before into improving the way they tackle representation and the gender pay gap at all stages from recruitment to the C-Suite. 

The Pharmaceutical industry is just as turned on, and for good reason. When it comes to gender diversity in Medical Sales, women make up a disproportionately small percentage of the workforce: in the 2017 Medical Sales Salary Report, 70% of the respondents were men. Furthermore, women were found to make up only 14% of the highest paying jobs in the field- and this problem is present across all industry sectors in Pharmacology. What’s more, the Biopharma sector had only three representatives on Fortune’s latest Most Powerful Women list. Last year, senior female executives made up just 17% of management teams in the world’s top 20 pharmaceutical companies. 

Though the industry does seem very male dominated, the good news is that increasing numbers of businesses are looking reshape the way in which their recruitment process, and their business, handles the issue of gender equality. Having a larger percentage of women in the workforce has time and again been proven to provide countless benefits to the company, as well as to company culture: in the Pharmaceutical and Biotech industries, women excel at relationship building and paying attention to detail; these traits are key when it comes to being successful in a competitive industry like Medical Sales, with multiple clients to represent and drugs and devices to sell.

Indeed, 85% of HR professionals interviewed in CIPD’s Survey Report agree that including women in the boardroom brings new viewpoints forwards, whilst 62% say that boards with a good degree of gender diversity are more innovative and creative. When translated into business terms, that results in a more efficient business with a healthy reputation in the industry- and as an employer- and even impacts its bottom lines. 

Slowly but surely, however, change is happening across the Biotech and Pharmaceutical industries. There are Women in Biotech networking evenings, and the website Women in Bio is made up of professionals who are committed to promoting careers and leadership for women in sciences. Many companies, including tech companies and Pharmaceuticals like Johnson & Johnson, have also pledged to improving their diversity levels, hiring 20,000 women in STEM sectors by 2020. 

To ensure that momentum doesn’t die out, it’s vital that measures are put in place to encourage a diverse and open Biotech sector. Several high-ranking women in Medical Sales cite a strong work-life balance as essential to being successful within the field, providing them with time to look after their families and the flexibility to arrange their home lives around their work lives. Many companies also offer training programmes that teach women how to be assertive, or how to be an influential leader- one of which is the Rutgers Women’s Leadership Training Programme.

Some businesses and departments are also setting up peer-to-peer mentoring schemes, where women within the industry take the time to mentor new starters within the industry, providing them with a point of contact, support and advice as they progress within the company and on their career. Similarly, it pays to invest time into creating a comprehensive statement on diversity, and in creating a recruitment system without bias, unconscious or otherwise- especially as 61.1% of women in Biotech saw the recruitment processes in their last company to be biased.  When it comes to diversity, even the smallest things can help, such as monitoring a company’s metrics like the average incomes of women and men at each level of the business.

Of course, working in Biotech and in Medical Sales does come with its own set of challenges: everybody, no matter who they are, needs to be driven, innovative and willing to work hard and learn if they want to do well. But now that awareness is growing, the industry is taking great strides when it comes to representing and encouraging women within the industry. 

With so many businesses raising awareness and causing real difference, it’s clear that change is on the horizon.