It’s a new year and the cusp of a new decade. In boardrooms and management suites, pharmaceutical and biopharmaceutical executives are asking each other how their companies can develop innovative new products and turn a profit in the coming years. Here’s my unsolicited advice: hire more women managers.
Traditionally underrepresented in the workforce, women now account for half of all US employees, according to a report by the Center for American Progress. At least half of the US workers at Genentech (South San Francisco, CA), Genzyme (Cambridge, MA), and AstraZeneca (London) are women. Before we congratulate ourselves, though, we should note that only 17% of senior managers and 34% of middle managers at life-sciences companies are women, according to the E.D.G.E. in Leadership study of November 2007. What’s more, the study noted that these percentages hadn’t changed significantly in about five years.
Research reveals that companies have compelling business incentives to hire women for their leadership teams. Advisory firm Catalyst published a study in 2004 that showed that companies with the most women on their senior-management teams were able to pay their shareholders 34% more than companies with fewer female managers.
And in October 2007, a group at the London Business School concluded that teams with equal proportions of men and women produce more innovations than do unequal teams. When women have proportional representation, the whole team feels safer and is more likely to experiment, according to the study.
It’s true that pharmaceutical and biopharmaceutical manufacturers, recognizing the lopsided composition of their workforces, have hired more women recently. But I think we need to smash more glass ceilings. If the research is sound, boards of directors have good reasons for welcoming women to their ranks. The results would likely be good for drugmakers’ bottom lines, and probably good for patients, too.