BIO warns members: No more raucous after-hours events — and start putting women in senior posts, now

After a series of raucous events at industry parties blew up into nasty controversies — highlighting a painfully limited number of women in senior company positions — the leaders of the biotech industry’s chief trade organization says they’ve had enough. 

John Maraganore

In a letter to its membership that made the rounds on Wednesday, which I obtained,  three top officials at BIO — Alnylam CEO John Maraganore, this year’s chairman, along with Halozyme chief Helen Torley and BIO chief Jim Greenwood — put its extensive roster of member companies on notice that they have 6 years to achieve serious gender diversity at the top. They also drew a line in the sand for anyone else planning after-hours parties like the one at this summer’s BIO confab, which featured topless dancers.

If your company wants to stay in BIO, this message reads loud and clear, you have a code of conduct that goes with it.

We are determined to come together to embrace equality and inclusiveness, confront unconscious bias, and address sexist biases in all aspects of the biotechnology ecosystem – in the workplace, in our business operations, in the products we produce, and at all industry-affiliated activities and events.

As a result of this commitment, we stand ready to condemn those actions, activities, or events that are clearly inconsistent with the values BIO actively is promoting through the work of BIO’s WDDI Committee and our general membership principles and policies.

Helen Torley

This issue blew up first at JP Morgan in 2016, when a number of women openly complained about the annual party hosted by LifeSci Advisors that featured a bevy of models on staff. (Stung by the attention, LifeSci Advisors has since become a champion of gender diversity.)

Then this summer — with the #MeToo movement in full swing — came another Party At BIO Not Associated with BIO, or PABNAB, with dancers for entertainment. Sponsors included Bayer and Selexis. That, too, provoked outrage, with Maraganore and others condemning the event.

James Greenwood

What’s likely to prove much harder than ending the risqué events once and for all — perhaps even including Roth Capital Partners, which resisted calls for change when their own events were called out for featuring scantily clad dancers in ’16 — BIO expects to see real, measurable and swift improvement in the number of women who represent biotechs at a senior-level job.

Women currently occupy 10% of the industry’s board seats — BIO wants to move that to 20% by 2025. And they want to see the number of women occupying C-suite roles to double in 6 years, leaping from 25% today to 50%.

BIO is promising to back this up by keeping the spotlight focused on gender diversity, while also pledging to do more on racial diversity as well as increased LGBTQ representation.

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