3rd July 2018

Women in the Pharmaceutical Industry

How influential have women become in the pharmaceutical industry?

How influential have women become in the pharmaceutical industry? The Ada Lovelace Day, an international celebration that honours the achievements of women in science, technology, engineering and maths, reminds us of the importance of this question. Indeed, this is a commemoration of the efforts that women have put into escaping the status quo that denied them access to the labour market and until recently the male dominated field of science. Most importantly, it reminds us of a social issue, that of the under-representation of women in executive-level positions in the pharmaceutical industry.

In spite of all the progress, the inventions and the creation of countless jobs that would shift the gender balance in the pharmaceutical industry, the gender inequality persists and women have to face the same issues that their peers face in Wall Street and the Fortune 500 corporations. And this is not a secret: many global companies like Janssen, have included gender equality in their brand marketing campaigns in their effort to promote themselves as pioneers both in the pharmaceutical industry and in gender equality.

By observing at the statistics, one understands the imperative need to have more campaigns like this one, as the gender equality situation is urgent. In 2016 out of the 20 most profitable pharmaceutical companies merely 3 out of 20 had women at the senior executive level and not a single one of those 20 companies had a female CEO. The same alarming situation is revealed by findings of the Report of the United Nations on Science: towards 2030. While 53 percent of women hold a degree or a master’s and 43 percent hold a doctorate, the percentage of women that work in science is only 28 percent. In Europe, one can notice a shocking disparity between men and women as only 33 percent of the researchers are women.

One could discuss the complexity of the issue but one also has to also talk about the progress that have been accomplished and put the spotlight on the women that have proven their worth and made it to executive positions. Jane Griffiths, who is the company group chairman for Janssen group states that she faced no sexism or very little and is very optimistic about the rise of female leadership and particularly the appointment of women to CEO positions which is still an issue in the pharmaceutical industry. At the same time, two other very inspirational women that have shown that having a family life and reaching C-level positions is possible are Emma Walmsley and Vicki Goodman. Emma has four children, does not have a scientific background and is yet the CEO of GSK. Vicki, who is the VP and Development Lead of BMS has even stated that reaching a top level position in the pharma industry is due to the so called ‘deliberate forward planning skill’ which is something that she has been using to maintain a balance between work and family life. Another brilliant example is Martina Muttke, Head of International Medical Affairs at Shire, believes that this is not a gender issue and that women have to work as hard as men to get to director positions. However, as she mentions when she asked her colleagues about that she obtained mixed answers.

The fact that those successful women encourage other women to do follow their example, has shed light on the issue and has led to the advancement of government regulation that aims to bridge the gender gap. And the UK can take pride in paving the way towards change: the British government is the first one in Europe that obliges all organizations of more than 250 people to report the details of their gender pay gap. This measure brought many inequalities to the public eye and by ‘naming and shaming’ companies that violated the principle of gender equality begun to raise awareness in the industry.

Even though some may argue women do occupy executive positions, the male to female ratio indicates us that those women may still be the exception. This is an issue that any actor of the pharmaceutical ecosystem comes across consciously or unconsciously in their daily work and this is especially true in the reality of a recruiter. In fact, the talent supplied to the industry affects the gender balance and this is why the importance of judging of candidates on their worth and qualifications is extremely important. And Skills Alliance embraces that value with its activity not only in the UK but also across Europe.

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