Flagship Partner and Senior People Person on how leading biotech firms can attract and retain women scientists.
Why is having women part of biotech so important?
I would say women are and have been critically important to biotech. Female scientists have been making pivotal contributions to solving real issues for humanity for years. Data suggests that more women are entering the field, but retention will continue to be a key issue. We can no longer afford to accept attrition at the mid and senior levels and must solve for this scarcity to protect and elevate this talent pool.
What have you seen be successful in recruiting and retaining women across biotech?
A strong employee brand and culture with innovative science and the ability to advance is the starting point, but it’s not enough! Candidates are looking for companies who are willing to invest in learning and development, mentoring programs, flexible work arrangements, and affinity groups. Companies who embrace diversity and inclusion as part of their ethos will be ahead of their counterparts in attracting women.
Are you optimistic about the opportunity to recruit and retain women to early-stage life science companies?
The biggest change is that the importance of diverse leadership teams has reached the top in terms of priority conversations among leaders. Companies know that something has to change. The conversation has moved from the hallways to the boardroom.
Many companies have appointed a Chief Diversity Officer and/or have added tangible diversity and inclusion goals to the agenda. There are many contributing factors, including a generational shift where male colleagues are more likely to share in home responsibilities and are experiencing what women have had to do with far less assistance. In addition, social media has served as a bullhorn exposing high profile cases that would otherwise be invisible. We are at an inflection point and companies are paying attention. There is a long way to go, but the right dialogues are happening to find solutions that will improve gender imbalances.
I am optimistic and encouraged by rising numbers of women navigating to STEM. Despite this, it will take time to increase representation at the senior level. Companies need to take a multi-layered approach to changing this dynamic including identifying unconscious bias in the hiring process, creating intentional programs and policies aimed at the support, development and retention of women and providing transparency around metrics so that everyone is engaged with solving diversity and inclusion issues.
What would you say to an up-and-coming female scientist contemplating her career choices?
I’d tell her to go for it. Biotech is shaping the future of health. (And I’d tell her to come work at Flagship!)
If you see an error in this story, contact us.