This is an important study in that, while most widely published studies on gender diversity in the corporate world focus only on the Fortune 500, FTSE 100, or other lists of exclusively mega-sized enterprises, Epsen Fuller's study represents a broad cross-section of company size, as defined by market capitalization, in a specific industry sector.
As some reports show strides are being made, this study clearly identifies there is still a persistent gap in male and female representation on Boards and in C-Suites in the ever-growing life science sector.
Large-cap companies have the strongest showing with 20% female board representation, however still short of the global benchmark of 30% as promoted by such organizations as the 30% Club and 2020 Women on Boards.
It falls off dramatically at mid-cap and small cap companies at 13%, and only 8% for micro-cap companies.
As an industry, life sciences representation in the Board and C-Suite is far worse than others, indicative of the critical deficiencies of STEM education for women and girls, and should be a resonant call to action.
Among the industry's subsectors, gender representation fairs the worst in the medical device sector with less than 10% female board representation, followed by 11.44% and 12.05% for Big Pharma and BioTech respectively.
The C-Suite paints an even bleaker picture. Whereas Large-cap companies show 20% female representation at the Board level, only 10% of the C-Suite executives are women.
This leads to the question whether women executives, finding themselves locked out of the most senior roles in the larger companies, leave to pursue top-level executive positions, with more lucrative upside, in the Small and Micro-cap sector.
Alison Lawton, COO of Aura Biosciences and current independent Board Director at CoLucid Pharmaceuticals, ProQR Therapeutics and Verastem, as well as former Board Director of Cubist Pharmaceuticals up until its $9.5 billion sale to Merck, comments, "This research is so important. I truly believe that boards need to conduct a retained search to find new people (women), rather than doing it through the "old boys network", which only serves up a limited pool of candidates that are already known by the board.
"Frankly," she added, "if Cubist hadn't done a retained search with a specific request for a preference for a woman, I would never have gotten my first break into the Boardroom, which is what we need to do for other women."
Thomas Fuller, Epsen Fuller Managing Partner and Independent Board Director of Tingley Corporation, AESC and NACD NJ, notes, "The numbers paint a harsh but clear picture of what is happening in Boards and C-suites today. What's worse, this flies in the face of evidence that gender diversity is not a "nice-to-have", it delivers better results, period. While the business case for greater gender diversity has been made time and again, recent data validates this unequivocally.”
“Quite notably, a recent Credit Suisse study of their CS Gender 3000 Index companies found that investors focusing on companies where gender diversity was an important strategy were rewarded with higher return, with excess compound returns of 3.5% per year since 2005 in companies with women on the board compared to companies where the board is wholly male."
Fuller continues, "Gender diversity is a crucial factor influencing business differentiation, investment strategies and ultimately financial performance. I believe this is a business imperative we can accomplish as evidenced by our firm's track-record of 40% diversity placement rate over a 10+ year period. Shining a light on the issue is a critical step in the process, and a big part of what drove us to delve into this data.
Quite frankly, the real work of narrowing that gender gap begins with a decision at the top. No longer can the excuse be a lack of qualified candidates."
The research is part of a series of similar reports from Epsen Fuller. Additional research is in the works with both regional and national scope that focuses on specific industry sectors.
The visual report Life Science Diversity Still Lagging is a free downloadable resource.
For more information contact TFuller@EpsenFuller.com or 212.619.0089 ext. 301.
About Epsen Fuller Group
Epsen Fuller Group, epsenfuller.com, is a Top-20 executive search and leadership consulting firm headquartered in New York, and with offices in New Jersey and San Francisco as well as in major markets and business centers throughout the world, providing instant access to a world-class executive talent pool driving the global economy.
For nearly 20 years, clients have trusted Epsen Fuller Group to deliver top leadership talent around the world. Using a proven, data-driven Performance Based AssessmentSM process, Epsen Fuller delivers a dynamic experience, outstanding service, and exceptional value in Executive & Board Search as well as Leadership & Executive Coaching, Board Governance, and Private Equity Advisory services.