Spe­cial re­port: Twen­ty ex­tra­or­di­nary women in bio­phar­ma R&D who worked their way to the top

What dif­fer­en­ti­ates a woman leader in bio­phar­ma R&D from a man?

Not much, ex­cept there are few­er of them in se­nior posts. Da­ta sug­gest women are not more risk-averse, fam­i­ly-ori­ent­ed or less con­fi­dent than their male coun­ter­parts — in­deed the dif­fer­ences be­tween the two sex­es are neg­li­gi­ble. But a glance at the top R&D po­si­tions in Big Phar­ma leaves lit­tle doubt that up­ward mi­gra­tion in the ex­ec­u­tive ranks of bio­phar­ma R&D is tough.

And the in­dus­try is worse off be­cause of it.

“We know that if you have more di­verse lead­er­ship teams and more di­verse boards, you end up with bet­ter fi­nan­cial per­for­mance for the com­pa­ny, more in­no­va­tion, and there are count­less stud­ies that show this,” not­ed He­len Tor­ley, chair of BIO’s di­ver­si­ty com­mit­tee and CEO of Halozyme Ther­a­peu­tics, in an in­ter­view ear­li­er this year with End­points News

While the odds may be stacked against them, though, a grow­ing num­ber of women have been blaz­ing trails to se­nior po­si­tions in drug dis­cov­ery and de­vel­op­ment — open­ing paths in labs and C-suites that can be fol­lowed by fu­ture gen­er­a­tions. And be­cause of these women, and the many oth­ers they rep­re­sent, gen­der di­ver­si­ty will be­come the norm.

Here at End­points News we in­ter­viewed 20 women who have cleared the bar­ri­ers — both tan­gi­ble and fig­u­ra­tive — to scale the heights of bio­phar­ma R&D. This list is by no means ex­haus­tive but re­flects the hun­dreds of nom­i­na­tions we re­ceived cel­e­brat­ing the trail­blaz­ers who have di­rect­ly and in­di­rect­ly played a cru­cial role in de­vel­op­ing the med­i­cines in use to­day. 

Our con­ver­sa­tions of­fer a glimpse in­to how these women were mold­ed in­to lead­ers, and their re­flec­tions on the sta­tus of di­ver­si­ty. Per­haps most sig­nif­i­cant­ly, these lu­mi­nar­ies pre­scribe their an­ti­dotes for the gen­er­a­tions that lie in wait — ideas the in­dus­try could cham­pi­on in the fu­ture.

— Am­ber Tong (am­ber@end­pointsnews.com), Na­tal­ie Grover (na­tal­ie@end­pointsnews.com) and Ja­son Mast (ja­son@end­pointsnews.com)

Endpoints News

Unlock this article instantly by becoming a free subscriber.

You’ll get access to free articles each month, plus you can customize what newsletters get delivered to your inbox each week, including breaking news.

Senior Associate

Alexandria Real Estate Equities

Durham, NC, USA