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

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