New Initiative From MIT Seeks To Tackle Gender Inequality In Biotech

It’s no secret that biotech has long been a male-dominated field. To help combat this, a group of prominent MIT scientists have come together to address gender inequality in the biotech industry and bridge the gap in diversity at MIT.

Formed in 2018, the Boston Biotech Working Group includes venture capitalists, Boston-area biotech executives, MIT faculty, academic administrators, and policy makers dedicated to increasing opportunities for women within the biotech industry.

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The group has recently released a study indicating that male faculty at the school start companies at a higher rate than their female peers and proposed a way to help close the gap. Their report followed 337 MIT faculty members in seven engineering and science departments. The results showed that women participated in only 9% of biotech and other industry events between 2000 and 2018. If women had the same success in starting companies as their male counterparts in these fields, there would be 40 more female-run companies to start up out of MIT.

The study was followed by an outline for a new proposed plan, titled the Future Founder Initiative, to further integrate women into the science and technology fields at MIT. This plan includes a program for female faculty members that mentors in entrepreneurship, a commitment from multiple venture capital firms to include at least 25% women on the boards of the companies they control over the next two years, and a fellowship for women at certain venture capital firms.

“If we can’t advance discoveries at the same rate for women and men, that means there are drugs, therapies, devices, and diagnostics that are not getting to where they can actually benefit people. If as a region we want to continue to lead the world, the best thing to do is not squander our resources,” said Hockfield in her statement about the initiative.

The future of biotech could significantly benefit from the increased inclusion of women in the field. With the diligent work of the Boston Biotech Working Group, the Boston area could be one of the first regions to truly level the playing field for women entrepreneurs in life sciences.