Despite progress, women are 'severely underrepresented' in biotech — report
Of the 200 micro- and small-cap biotech CEOs included in the Bedford Group and Transearch’s latest study, only 17, or 8.5%, self-identified as women.
While that marks a nearly 3% improvement from 2020, Bedford Group partner and managing director Darren Raycroft remains “cautiously optimistic.” Of 745 total execs, 18% were female, up from less than 10% in 2020. And on boards, women saw an 11% jump in representation, while minority groups saw a 2% increase.
“This is a bit of a call to action as it was last year for companies to see things are headed in the right direction, but they can change very quickly,” Raycroft told Endpoints News, a day before releasing the annual report. “We saw a slight increase year over year of visible minorities on boards, but somewhat de minimis.”
This is the second year the firm has released a report based on about 200 public biotech companies with market caps under $2 billion. While the researchers have compiled executive compensation reports in other verticals for over a decade, they decided to dip into the biotech space last year, inspired in part by a new rule approved last summer that requires public companies to disclose diversity statistics for their board of directors.
“I think disclosure and transparency around what’s happening is a starting point,” Raycroft said. “Everybody can talk a great game on diversity, but who’s actually doing it? And what does it mean in the context of the industry?”
Of the 201 companies included in this year’s report, the firm noted that many had specific targets when it comes to DE&I. Drugmakers across the industry have made similar commitments, including Novo Nordisk, which debuted its first diversity and inclusion report in North America last month, and companies like Pfizer, which recently inked a diversity-focused clinical trials partnership.
However, “women are still severely under-represented in the Biotechnology industry,” the Bedford report states. Of 1,264 board members studied, only 25% were female, and just 16% of board members were not white.
Meanwhile, CEO compensations ranged from a median of $1.082 million for companies with under $100 million in market cap to $5.64 million for companies with $1 billion to $2 billion in market cap.
“I think it’s one board placement at a time,” Raycroft said on improving diversity numbers.
Last year, he noted a “self-perpetuating” cycle of people at the board level hiring friends of other board members or friends of founders. “If they’re not just looking to their own networks, they’re asking board members, ‘Hey, who do you know?’ I think that’s how a small change becomes a big change,” he added Tuesday.