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Why the pharmaceutical market must strive for more women in leadership roles

Posted on: 10 Mar

It’s not breaking news to hear that women are still struggling to achieve the same promotions as men. McKinsey’s Women in the Workplace 2020 report found that for every 100 male employees promoted to managerial status, just 85 women were promoted. That disproportion skews even more towards men when you concentrate on Latina and black women.

There is lots of progress to be made in most industries, and the pharmaceutical industry is no exception. In 2020, the industry made history, delivering a coronavirus vaccine in under a year – a feat never thought possible before. With all eyes on the industry, watching to see who the trailblazers are, the questions is, who is leading the market? The answer: the vast majority are men.

Here’s why the pharmaceutical market must strive for more women in leadership roles:

Giving the opportunities that women deserve

If you were to look back over some of the major events in pharma history, you’ll see the names of many women, like Gertrude Elion, Frances Kelsey or Emma Walmsley. Without their contributions, there’s no telling where the industry would be. That’s not say it was easy for them to make a name for themselves. Despite proving herself to be a talented scholar, Gertrude Elion had troubles securing a job in the 1930s. Fast forward several decades and women are still seriously underrepresented in the pharmaceutical market, accounting for less than 30% of the executive team.

With the talent gap in pharma and life sciences continuing to grow, businesses need to be smart about who they hire, especially at the senior level. Creating a market where women are encouraged to lead a team and sit on the executive board creates more opportunities for other underrepresented groups within pharma. Having a workforce that is diverse in experience, background and ethnicity is essential if a business wants to thrive.

An inclusive industry is good for business

When a team is diverse, each individual brings something unique to the table. But what happens when the leadership team all look, talk and think the same? Decision-making often ends up one-sided, and this can stunt company growth. Though there has been progress in the biotech sphere, there are many obstacles that women face, including unconscious bias, micro-aggressions and childcare.

To tackle these obstacles head-on, companies must draw up diversity and inclusion (D&I) strategies that support women to go after promotions and make their voices heard. Not only does this create a fair work environment, but it will have a positive impact on the bottom line and give a business a competitive advantage. Business success hinges on fostering an inclusive environment where women are given the opportunity to lead.

A good example of this is Novartis, who is taking an active stance on fostering female talent. They recently announced their partnership with Red Shoe Movement, a company that provides coaching aimed at improving gender inclusion and giving women the tools to develop professionally.

Diversity drives innovation

The gender gap within pharma is not only a D&I issue for the individual, it also hampers innovation. Columbia Business School Professor, Katherine Phillips, explains it as: “Diversity jolts us into cognitive action in ways that homogeneity simply does not”.

Studies over the years have shown a positive correlation between diversity and business performance. Equally, there’s evidence to suggest there’s a link between diversity and innovation. Research shows that companies who score above average in terms of diversity have an innovation revenue 19 percentage points higher than those who score below average.

Pharma is one of the few industries to face the challenges that the pandemic threw at it and come out stronger. Now leaders need to ensure this success continues. By giving women a chance to earn a seat in the boardroom, businesses can tap into their innovative abilities and creative outlooks.

Take your next career move with IQVIA 

Pharmaceutical companies that empower their female colleagues to strive for leadership roles stand much to gain but nothing to lose. At IQVIA, we’re passionate about diversity and are proud to be an equal opportunity employer. We do not discriminate based on race, religion, colour, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, age, marital status, veteran status, or disability status.

No matter your background or experience, if you have the passion to drive healthcare forwards, we want to hear from you. View our medical sales and services jobs. We have colleagues in more than 30 countries, so you can find the location that is right for you with IQVIA.