Biotech edges toward gender parity, but C-suites stay male, white

Biotech’s slow shuffle toward increased representation of women and employees of color continued in 2021, with BIO’s third annual survey revealing (PDF) progress but also the need for further improvements. 

First, some positives. The gender split in biotech is continuing to even out, with the proportion of women employed by the respondents rising from 45% in 2019 to 49% in the latest survey. Women also make up a bigger proportion of executives than in the past, but the industry remains a long way from parity. Last year, 34% of executives were women, up from 31% the prior year. Twenty percent of CEOs were women in 2021.

Most, 80%, of the surveyed biotechs reported little change—less than 5% either way—in representation of women across their organizations. Seventeen percent of respondents reported an increase of at least 5%. The swings were bigger at the executive level, although the 38% of respondents that reported a 5% or more increase were offset by the 25% of companies that reported a comparable decrease. 

BIO also saw positive trends in the data on race and ethnicity. People of color made up 38% of the staff at the companies polled in 2021, compared to 32% in the prior year. Representation at senior levels also appears to be on the up, with employees of color making up 24% of executives and 28% of CEOs, up from 21% and 24%, respectively, in the previous survey. Forty-two percent of companies reported a 5% or greater increase in representation of people of color at the executive level.

The increases cover a period in which more companies have started collecting demographic data on their employees. When BIO ran its first survey in 2019, 51% of companies collected demographic data. That figure jumped to 77% in 2020 before falling slightly to 75% in the latest poll. 

While the overall rate of demographic data collection has flatlined, BIO saw a shift in the proportion of companies that collect data on LGTBQ representation. The figure rose from 10% in 2020 to 21% in the latest analysis.

All the surveyed large companies collect demographic data, compared to 56% of their smaller peers. The divergence is reflected across the data, for example in the finding that the proportions of small and large companies that collect LGTBQ information are 10% and 30%, respectively. The findings correlate with the presence of human resources staff, who are employed by all the polled companies with head counts of 100 or more and half of the smaller organizations.