Biogen/Women In Bio

Biogen/Women In Bio

Photo courtesy of Women In Bio and Biogen.

Gender balance on biotech boards

Gender balance on biotech boards

Though women are gaining board seats, men continue to be appointed to boards (orange) at greater than twice the rate of women (red), according to Liftstream research.

Chart from 2017 Liftstream report "A Reality for Women in Biotech Boardrooms."

Solabs CEO Philippe Gaudreau

Solabs CEO Philippe Gaudreau

Photo courtesy of Solabs.

Amri Johnson, global head of diversity and inclusion at NIBR

Amri Johnson, global head of diversity and inclusion at NIBR

Photo courtesy of Novartis.

Susan Windham-Bannister, BioMedical Growth Strategies

Susan Windham-Bannister, BioMedical Growth Strategies

Joan Reede, Harvard Medical School

Joan Reede, Harvard Medical School

Photo courtesy of Harvard Medical School.

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contribute to the STEM fields has long been a mission of hers. Under-represented communities are the fastest growing demographics in the U.S., Windham-Bannister says, and that means that life science companies will need to draw more of their employees from these communities.

Windham-Bannister now runs her own consultancy, Biomedical Growth Strategies, but her efforts to support diversity continue. She has collaborated with MassBio and the BioPharma Executive Council on this front, including drafting an open letter this year on increasing gender diversity in the life sciences, a follow-up to a letter last year that included discussion of diversity initiatives. More than 200 Massachusetts companies signed the letter, which was presented earlier this year at the annual J.P. Morgan Healthcare conference in San Francisco.

“If we’re not encouraging women and people of color to pursue these fields, industry is going to look up and they will be woefully short of talent,” Windham-Bannister says.

Joan Reede Connects Harvard to the Community

When Joan Reede, Harvard Medical School’s dean for diversity and community partnership, first joined the university, she found some diversity efforts. But she also noticed that there was little sharing of information within Harvard or with the larger community. She went on to create more than 20 programs intended to support women and minorities at the medical school. One of these programs is the Commonwealth Fund Mongan Fellowship in Minority Policy which aims to prepare physicians for roles in improving healthcare access for minorities and others who have challenges getting care. Monica Bharel, Massachusetts’ commissioner of public health, is an alumnus of the program. Reede says that close to 80 percent of the 128 fellows who have gone through the program have held faculty appointments throughout the country.

Reede has also made connections between Harvard and its surrounding community. The medical school has started after-school academic programs for middle and high school students and offers professional development programs for teachers. This outreach led to the formation of the Biomedical Science Careers Program (BSCP), a non-profit organization led by Reede that provides students of all backgrounds, from high school to the post doctoral level, with the guidance and support to pursue careers in the sciences. Growing beyond its New England origins, BSCP now serves students across the country. In 2018, more than 1,000 students from 200 schools will be represented.

“Some may end up in industry, some may end up in classrooms, some may end up in clinics,” Reede says. “But it’s based on the students and what they want to do.”

Reede says making multiple programs available to students and faculty at various stages in their careers will help improve recruitment and retention of minorities and women. The medical school class that entered Harvard last year was 51 percent women. But Reede says much remains to be done.

“When I look at our youth in Boston and Cambridge public schools, I don’t believe that many of them see our organizations as places of future employment, places that they could be leaders, places where they think they belong,” she says. “We’re in this amazing academic and scientific community that thrives on asking questions and finding solutions. We need to do the same thing as we think about diversity.”

Boston skyline from the Prudential skywalk photo by Flickr user Bill Damon, used under a Creative Commons license. Photo cropped to fit Xconomy publishing system standards. 

This is the fourth in a series of articles about our 2017 Xconomy Award Finalists. See previous articles about finalists in the CEO, Startup, and Young Innovator categories. The winners will be announced at the Awards Gala on September 26.

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