Life sciences industry executives are increasingly concerned they are not doing enough to attract and retain women in their organizations, according to “Navigating disruption without gender diversity? Think again,” a new EY survey on industry-wide gender parity. The survey reveals that 53% of industry executives admit they are currently underutilizing women within their ranks. And yet, 72% of life sciences executives surveyed agree that having greater gender diversity at all levels of their business improves financial performance.
The survey suggests a looming threat of disruption facing the wider industry, as life sciences companies advance boldly into a digitally driven, patient-centric future. Challenged by this new environment, 73% of industry executives admit that dramatic changes are needed in how they attract, retain, engage and promote talent. In particular, life sciences executives are striving to achieve diversity of thought and experience within their leadership teams — something 57% say is currently lacking within their organizations. Overwhelmingly, 90% of industry executives agree that new leaders and leadership skills will make the difference in adapting to the disruptive changes impacting the sector.
“Life sciences leaders know they need to reimagine their business models to meet the evolving needs of payers, providers, patients, consumers and regulators,” said Kim Ramko, EY Global Life Sciences Advisory Services Leader. “They also understand that without change, their businesses will either fail to thrive or fail altogether. Yet, despite valuing diversity, many life sciences organizations are currently not addressing the gender gap in a way that will deliver the real change that is needed to succeed.”
The survey affirms that few organizations have taken concrete steps to address these issues. Strikingly, 19% of female industry executives and only 16% of male industry executives believe their organizations are effective at retaining women.
It is then little surprise that only 20% of life sciences companies have a structured, formal program to identify and develop women’s careers in leadership within their organizations. An even smaller percentage (13%) of companies have an informal program to identify and develop women’s careers in leadership but with no plans to formalize it. Nearly half of respondents (47%) say they develop women and men equally as part of an existing leadership program — and they have no intention of changing it.
And while more than a third of life sciences executives (42%) believe they are very effective at attracting women, only 27% of female industry executives compared to 32% of male industry executives agree that their organizations’ retention strategies are very effective. And when it comes to identifying future female leaders and promoting women into leadership positions, only 19% of executives say their company could do better.
Looking to the future, a majority of life sciences leaders (63%) expect to see only a slight increase in the proportion of women in senior leadership positions within their organizations over the next five years. Twenty five percent of executives expect to see no change at all.
“As life sciences companies transform themselves to meet the expectations of a rapidly changing landscape, they must reconsider their existing recruitment models to attract and retain women and diverse groups to their workforce,” said Ramko. “This means making it a priority at the board level and investing in initiatives to achieve a truly diverse workforce.”