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Women in Senior Leadership Positions

The ongoing debate surrounding women in seniority and management roles is an issue that has been ongoing in the Life Science Consulting sector. The overall complexion of the issue can be highlighted by the strong representation of women in the global Life Science sector. They account for 45% of the workforce, however the percentage of women in senior positions is only 28%. So, with efforts being made to address issues of diversity and inclusion the bellowing question is - why is there such disparity regarding gender and seniority?

Findings from a survey conducted by the Biotechnology Innovation Organization (BIO) highlight the employment of diverse talent, from entry-level roles up to executive leadership and board positions - gender diversity is equally distributed with females making up 45% of the companies that were surveyed. However, ratios are different in the upper levels of management - the survey shows females comprise only 30% at executive level and even less (18%) at board level.

Global Scope:

In 2020, the proportion of women in senior management roles across the globe grew to 29%, the highest number ever recorded. Although the percentages are slowly increasing, this issue is not one purely exclusive to the Life Science Consulting sector - it is a global issue which needs tackling. Senior management opportunities are far more distributed, and 87% of global medium-market companies have at least one woman in senior management.

The proportion of women in senior leadership differs by role:

  • The overall extent of the situation can be viewed in a variety of roles which are delegated to women. There are certain functions, such as Administration, where women are far more overrepresented compared to men. On the flip side, Operational roles tend to have a far greater number of men, which are generally considered to be an essential stepping stone to higher level C-Suite and Board-level opportunities.

  • Women have a good level of representation in senior HR roles due to the fact there is a continuous number coming through from more junior HR positions. This equates to an overall 40% distribution of female representation in Director level roles in Human Resourcing. If we compare this to other roles such as Chief Marketing Officer or Chief Information Officer, there is a clear gulf in the number and gender equality of the distribution, with a mere 17% and 16% correspondence. Therefore, this shows that there are certain barriers to senior Operations opportunities for women.

Benefits of Greater Gender Diversity:

  • Balance: Having both women and men in your team means you benefit from different points of view and approaches that come from different life experiences. In turn, this leads to creativity and innovation.

  • Collaboration: Team collaboration and communication can be strengthened by having a greater number of women in the workforce. Women can help enable non-verbal cues for certain group members, and the more team members who can contribute to group business discussions means a far richer and more effective communication of ideas.

  • Smaller rate of employee turnover: Having a greater level of diversity - in this case a greater level of gender diversity - not only improves the overall morale of a business, but also enables a greater level of retention. Keeping staff for a longer period of time has cost benefits and allows for a greater level of productivity.

  • Recruiting and attracting top market talent: A reputation as an inclusive employer will also demonstrate your positive company values, and that will enhance your reputation in the marketplace. Views towards the overall representation of women in the workplace has changed drastically over the past 30 years. Female millennials now see this as a key point to analyse before starting a new position, with a study conducted by PwC finding that 85% now view diversity as a defining factor influencing their decision to accept an opportunity.

  • The bottom line: With a greater amount of diversity comes a greater amount of profitability. A study conducted by McKinsey highlighted that companies who have a greater mix of diversity experienced 21% above average levels of profit.

The question is - will women ever reach parity with men in the workforce? On a positive note, the gender imbalance across UK businesses is on the British government’s agenda – in 2019 it stated that FTSE 100 executive-level appointments needed to achieve a target of 33% female representation, a goal that was met in February 2020. It is clear that more work is needed to improve gender diversity in the Pharmaceutical and Life Science industry, the beginning of which we have seen. As an organisation, Mantell Associates ensures that all work carried out across our five divisions is done so without bias, and with diversity and equality in mind.

Mantell Associates is a specialist Pharmaceutical and Life Sciences Headhunting organisation. To find out how we can assist with your business requirements, contact Fernand Desjarlais on +442038547700 or