Biotech’s Slow Crawl Toward Diversified Representation

Although progress has been seen in the biotech space when it comes to the representation of women and people of color, the glacial pace of the improvement has remained largely the same in the past few years. The Biotechnology Innovation Organization’s (BIO) third annual survey in 2021 did, however, reveal a few positive trends. The gender split in the sector is continuing to even out, with the proportion of women employed by survey respondents rising from 45% in 2019 to 49% in 2021. Women are also more likely to be found in C-suite roles than in previous years, but the fact that a mere 20% of biotech CEOs are female indicates that women are still being overlooked for top leadership positions.

Among the signs of stagnation in the growth in representation of women was 80% of surveyed companies reporting little or no change in the representation of women across their organizations. The biggest fluctuation was indeed seen at the executive level—34% of executives were women in 2021, compared to 31% the previous year—but the positive changes were tempered by a quarter of companies reporting a comparable decrease.

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Race and ethnicity representation saw slightly bigger improvements. People of color now comprise 38% of staff at the polled companies, up from 32% the previous survey year. Some 42% of companies were able to show a 5% or greater rise in the representation of people of color at the executive level.

While this is indeed progress, there is still a long way to go.