For two young, blond executives in the biotech industry, the annual J.P. Morgan party circuit at night offered plenty of unwelcome attention. At one point during an industry party they attended, a man came up to declare: "I came over to flirt!"
Both women were distinctly underwhelmed. They also weren't all that surprised.
During the day, the biotech industry talks deals and dollars at J.P. Morgan, a conference that radiates out from the Westin St. Francis nexus into hundreds of venues at the hotels that circle Union Square. At night, though, it's the closest biotech gets to a stay in Vegas, with plenty of booze and entertainment.
The big difference from Vegas? A major shortage of women.
The imbalance was so dramatic for LifeSci Advisors, the financial advisory firm ships in attractive models for its annual cocktail party. And they come in "short, tight black dresses with shoulder cutouts," reports Bloomberg in their take on the male-dominated industry at J.P. Morgan.
LifeSci's Andrew McDonald told the business news service that without the models, he'd have a party list with a 9-to-1 ratio of men to women.
And how did some of the men respond? Some were very enthusiastic. "There are the models," shouted one, according to Bloomberg.
The anecdotes simply highlight a discomforting truth that women in the industry are only too familiar with. Women make up about 40% of the qualified workforce in the industry, and take around 1 in 10 of the board seats. Senior executive positions are typically held by men. Liftstream concluded in 2014 that women did somewhat better on Big Biotech boards than the small caps, but held only 15% of the top jobs.
One reason for the shortage of women in leadership roles, noted Liftstream, is that smaller companies have unstructured hiring procedures and tend to lean heavily on their network of friends and associates. Those networks are usually made up of men. The men who go to J.P. Morgan. Where women are rarely seen in prominent roles. Or anywhere else, for that matter.
And just maybe that has something to do with the way they're treated by too many men who have worked too long in a male-dominated business. -- John Carroll, editor-in-chief (email | Twitter)