An interview with the CEO of Halozyme Therapeutics, Dr. Helen Torley, has revealed interesting insights into the gender gap that exists in the healthcare industry, including biotech and pharma, in America.
Read on for a breakdown of our top takeaways from this impactful interview!
The healthcare industry has been unsuccessful in achieving gender diversity at all levels of management. In fact, a recent report by Credit Suisse revealed that between 2014 and 2016, there was a 4 percent global reduction in the number of women in senior management positions.
To buck this trend, the California Legislature in 2013 outlined a benchmark for publicly traded companies to improve gender diversity in senior management positions, but a study conducted by researchers at UC Davis found that less than 21 percent of pharmaceutical companies were able to meet this goal. The biotech industry has not fared much better with women constituting only 20 percent of management teams and 10 percent of the boards of companies in this sector.
Barriers to Career Progression for Women
Perhaps one of the biggest hurdles women face in their professional lives is an unconscious favoritism towards men when it comes to hiring and promotions. Studies conducted by a number of organizations, including Harvard, have found that when blinded resumes were presented to an interview panel, with all things being equal and only the gender changed, there was a bias in the hiring decision that favored men.
When it comes to choosing women for leadership roles, there is an assumption that a woman will not be able to handle an important role in terms of stress, travel, managing family life, and emotions.
Studies have shown that mentorships and sponsorships play key roles in overcoming the barriers created by this inherent bias. Sponsors and mentors provide valuable advice, feedback, support, and influence that can help women access opportunities and perform well at challenging assignments. Interestingly, studies have found that women tend to have more mentors than sponsors, indicating once again a reluctance to invest in women.
Organizations where the top management is diverse and companies that make gender diversity a priority promote a culture where women thrive in the workplace. Employers can remove barriers to the professional success of women by permitting an organic growth of diverse leadership within the organization.
Biases in the Healthcare Industry
Research at Harvard, as mentioned before, has shown an unconscious preference for CVs where the gender is male and all other things are equal. This problem can be addressed by focusing on diversity in the interview panel as well as the candidate pool. A conscious effort to bridge the gender gap involves hiring equal numbers of qualified men and women.
Flexible work arrangements (flexi-time work hours and work-from-home roles) are another way for companies to encourage women to assume key roles. Selecting the right person for the right role is simply a question of accommodating employees, both men and women, and encouraging a healthy work-life balance.
On their part, women should take a more proactive approach to career advancement by choosing challenging roles that put them out of their comfort zone. Holding back and waiting to acquire the necessary skills before applying for a job does not always work and a more go-getter attitude is often what is needed.
Read the full interview at this link.