Importance of Women’s Leadership in Life Sciences

It wasn’t very long ago when, at the JP Morgan Healthcare Conference, presenters named Michael outnumbered female CEOs giving company presentations [1]. Of the presenters, there were 22 men named Michael, overshadowing the total number of 20 female CEOs. With 4 out of 9 panels including no women at all, as either moderators or panelist. This was only a year ago. JPM this January saw a slight shift in its presenter line-up, but 90% were still men, reported STAT [2]. It is interesting to note though, J.P. Morgan’s Executive Leadership Team itself is a good example of gender diversity, with 43.8% women [3]. As JPM is one of the largest annual gatherings in the world for biopharmaceutical executives, it serves as a window to the biotech and biopharma landscape as a whole. For many of us, the lack of women in leadership positions in the life sciences unfortunately doesn’t come as a surprise, even though there have been some positive trends in recent years. In 2004, a study in the Canadian Medical Association Journal stated that “the gender gap in medical schools no longer exits,” [4] with a mean of 58% of women attending Canadian medical school classes, compared with a mean of 42% of men. Life sciences in general follow the same trend as medical student attendance. From 1991 to 2011, the amount of women in life science occupations almost doubled from 23% to 43%, accounting to Statistics Canada [5]. Despite these encouraging statistics, the increase in number of women in healthcare has not proportionally translated to leadership positions. I recently joined a board of a biotechnology company, Altum Pharmaceuticals, with...