Gender diversity in employment, is arguably one of the most pertinent issues in contemporary society. Specifically in leadership, it’s a familiar notion that men take up the majority of senior roles in the working world. In 2018, it was reported than the number of CEO’s in the fortune 500, had declined to 24 after reaching an all time high of 32 in 2017. Overall this makes up a 5% share of leadership positions. In this article, we’ll take a look at the number of women in leadership roles, specifically in the pharmaceutical sector.
In terms of employee diversity, the pharmaceutical industry appears to be one the most thriving sectors in the world. In August 2017, research from The General Pharmaceutical Council register stated that of 55,209 registered pharmacists in the UK, 61% identified as female, and 39% as male. The research also outlined how women were best represented in senior roles in hospital pharmacy, all well and good it seems - however that isn’t entirely the case...
Further data from two “independent multiple pharmacy chains”, that considers the career stages and gender of more than 500 employee pharmacists, states that although there is a relatively equal number of pre-registration and [non-manager] pharmacists in community pharmacy as there is on the GPhC register, the ratio of male to female pharmacists decreases as senior positions increase. Results from both pieces of data also suggest that women are in fact under-represented in more senior roles in community pharmacy despite the majority of the registered pharmacists identifying as female.
The pattern of unequal gender diversity in seniority continues when viewing the wider pharmaceutical industry, particularly in the corporate world. Research conducted by an online pharmacy, looking at the number of women in leadership positions in the biggest pharmaceutical companies reveals that the number of men in senior roles heavily outweighs the number of women. Doctor4U have identified the top 10 biggest pharmaceutical companies in the world by revenue and explored the gender make-up of both their executive committees and board of directors.
Concerning the number of women on the executive committees of the top 10 biggest pharmaceutical companies in the world, only 28 of the 122 positions are held by females. Pfizer lead the way with 38% of women sitting on the executive committee. At the bottom of the pile are Abbvie and Bayer, who both have one woman on their executive committee panels.
Female representation on the big pharma’s board of directors tells a similar story. Again only 36 women sit on the board of directors, of the top 10 biggest pharmaceutical companies in the world, compared to 82 men. GlaxoSmithKline and Sanofi, have the most gender diverse board of directors with the former having 5/11 women on their board, and the latter having 6/14 positions held by women. Bayer again are falling far behind the rest of the pack as they don’t have any women on their board.
Despite these relatively unprogressive figures, debate has started arise in the pharmaceutical industry about the amount of women in leadership roles. After Emma Walmsley was appointed as the CEO of GlaxoSmithKline, a pharmaceutical company based in the UK, the media recognised that she was the first female CEO in big pharma. Strong debate around women in leadership positions in the pharmaceutical sector ensued, and questions started to arise about why there weren’t many, or in some cases, any women in leadership roles.
Why, is this the case then, particularly when there’s a strong representation of women in the rest of the pharmaceutical sector? Some commentators suggest that more men are academically more qualified to take leadership roles in the pharmaceutical sector. An article on pharmaceutical online states that more men study degrees that are more applicable to the pharmaceutical industry, while men also outrank women in PhD’s in education and business. Although this suggestion has logic, a significant proportion of undergraduates, postgraduates and doctorates, work in a sector that differs significantly from their chosen subject.
Others sources suggest that companies’ approaches to recruitment and retention can be partially blamed for a lack of female inclusion at leadership level. A Massachusetts Biotechnology Council reports concluded that 61% of women's views on the recruitment process in their last company was bias. Concurrently, the report additionally outlined that individuals must seek to participate in every way necessary to reach those positions.
Although gender diversity in leadership has come a long way in the last 50 years, there is still significant ground to be made to achieve equal representation. For companies it’s not just about acting upon an imbalance in male/female leadership roles, but primarily understanding why they occur.