Gender tokenism and bias prevail in biotech boardrooms
The Nature Biotechnology article, “Gender tokenism and bias prevail in biotech boardrooms,” quotes Russell Reynolds Associates Consultant Gabrielle Lajoie about the change in biotech board composition and the recent increase in female board members. The article is excerpted below.
A new study on gender diversity projects that at the current rate of change, it could take as long as 40 years for gender parity to arrive in biotech boardrooms. The report from London-based recruitment firm Liftstream found not only that women remain woefully underrepresented in biotech, but also that much of the imbalance stems from the old boy culture that dominates venture capital firms and management circles (Nat. Biotechnol. 33, 781, 2015).
Biotech headhunters like Gabrielle Lajoie, co-head of global healthcare recruiting at the executive search firm Russell Reynolds in San Francisco, say those are exactly the types of women being appointed to boards today. Ten years ago, most of Lajoie’s clients only wanted CEOs. Now, “board searches have become much more focused on the functional expertise companies need”—be it financial, clinical, commercial or other. That has resulted in a steady uptick in female recruits for board roles. In the past five years, for example, 18 of the 70 biotech board members appointed with Lajoie’s help were female. Last year, the proportion ramped up to almost half. And although Lajoie is sometimes asked explicitly to find a woman to address diversity disparities, “in most cases,” she says, “it’s just that they’re the best candidates.”
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