Gender diversity is a recognized driver of business success. Yet, senior female executives still represent just 17 percent of top 20 pharmaceutical company management teams. So how can biopharma and life science companies move the needle to achieve gender parity and the enhanced corporate performance that comes with it?

1. Make diversity and inclusion essential to global strategy

Success starts with building a culture of inclusion in which all employees can realize their full potential. By building a foundation that values diversity, companies can create an organizational environment grounded in trust that creates the culture to support talent to flourish. This requires encouraging participation from everyone, critically the CEO, to demonstrate their support and importance of addressing unconscious bias. It requires creating a core competency around gender partnership — and how this plays out around the world. And it requires making gender parity the highest priority in selection, retention, training and promotion; including holding senior leaders accountable for considering a gender-balanced slate for open positions and ongoing mentoring and sponsorship programs.

As efforts progress, it’s also critical to continually measure, learn, apply and share widely what works — and what doesn’t — and transparently sharing updates about this important work.

2. Maximize the role of employee resource groups

Employee resource groups, also known as affinity or business resource groups, can play a huge role in building an inclusive culture that attracts, engages and retains top talent and promotes the cross-pollination of ideas needed to solve today’s biggest healthcare challenges. These groups offer those underrepresented at senior levels an environment to build confidence and skills and a forum for networking, mentorship and collaborative learning. Smart companies leverage ERGs strategically to gain perspectives and connections for customer insights, marketing and sales and identify where talent resides in the organization.

3. Build external partnerships to multiply impact

Moving the needle on gender parity also requires external efforts to publicly advocate for parity as a business — not a women’s — issue. Companies can make a greater impact and set themselves apart from the competition by building strong partnerships. For example, companies can partner with non-governmental organizations like the Healthcare Businesswomen’s Association Gender Parity Collaborative, focused on diversity to offer events, programming, professional development, and thought leadership.

By following these and other best practices, biopharma companies can make great strides toward retaining senior women leaders, attracting the brightest talent and better serving both patients and the company’s bottom line.


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