Diversity in biotech: Inclusion lower at higher levels

By Vassia Barba

- Last updated on GMT

(Image: Getty/rclassenlayouts)
(Image: Getty/rclassenlayouts)

Related tags diversity biotechnology innovation organization

Data published by BIO show diversity in biotech companies decreases at higher levels of management, especially in bigger, more profitable companies.

Findings of a survey conducted by the Biotechnology Innovation Organization (BIO), recently released in a report,​ showed that there is significant room for improvement on the diversity rates among biopharmaceutical and biotechnology companies.

Regarding gender diversity, BIO’s report suggests that although 45% of all employees in biotech are female, representing a relative balance, this proportion shrinks as upper levels of management are examined.

Specifically, females account for 30% of the industry’s workforce at executive level, and only 18% of the industry’s board members.

BIO diversity

12% of companies employ no people of color

Regarding ethnic diversity, the same tendency occurs; however, representation here is lower, with 32% out of all employees being people of color, with the figure decreasing at higher levels. 

People of color represent 15% of biotech executives and 14% of board members. In addition, a notable proportion of biotech companies do not employ any people of color, at 12%.

Moreover, according to BIO, representation is increased in pre-revenue, smaller, and private companies, while profitable organizations are less likely to have a diverse workforce.

Specifically, 29% of pre-revenue organizations’ executive employees are people of color, while for profitable organizations this figure shrinks to 12%. The correlation is similar for female CEOs, with 22% of pre-revenue companies being led by women, compared to only 9% for profitable companies.

BIO diversity

A spokesperson for BIO told us that the organization plans to repeat the survey annually, in order to monitor how the situation develops.

Evaluating the situation demonstrated in the report, the organization stated that diversity and inclusion programs in biotech are still at the ‘nascent’ stages, with “many companies still assessing the benefits.”

“While these numbers show progress in some areas, we know that as an industry, we can do better,” ​said Helen Torley, chair of BIO’s Workforce Development, Diversity and Inclusion Committee, adding that many member companies express a ‘strong desire’ for improvement.

Taking action

Alongside monitoring the situation through the annual reports, the organization provides several resources to support member companies build on their diversity and inclusion efforts.

As a first step, BIO suggests that companies “start by assessing where they are” ​on the subject, through representation data collection and tracking, and subsequently implement diversity and inclusion programs.

These programs may include behavior training, investment in pay equity, networking opportunities, and reviewing hiring/career progress practices, as well as paying ‘particular attention’ to representation at the board level.


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