BIO Report: More Work Needed to Improve Diversity at Biotech Firms

Xconomy National — 

Some companies that belong to the Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO), a large industry trade group, convene diverse hiring committees, seek out representation among their suppliers and vendors, and are led by executives that talk regularly about the importance of an inclusive workforce.

Others have no women or people of color as employees, gather no data on employee demographics, and have no initiatives in place to support diversity and inclusion.

In other words, it’s a mixed bag when it comes to efforts to diversify biotech companies—a push that BIO believes will improve the competitiveness of the industry. To that end, BIO established a working group in 2017 to better understand and ameliorate the issue.

BIO’s Workforce Development, Diversity and Inclusion Committee on Thursday issued its first report on the topic based on data collected from a number of its members. The impetus for the report, titled “Measuring Diversity in the Biotech Industry: Building an Inclusive Workforce,” was to provide a baseline for understanding representation of diversity and inclusion within BIO member companies.

What it found, based on responses the Center for Talent Innovation collected last summer from representatives of about 100 companies and organizations, was that while women are approaching gender parity at the average company, making up 45 percent of employees, their representation declines to an average of 30 percent in the C-suite and 18 percent at the board level.

Three-fourths of the responding organizations reported majority male executive teams; 93 percent, majority male boards.

The percentage of people of color at the responding organizations was even less representative of the US population than the gender metrics, the survey found. An average of 32 percent of employees, 15 percent of executives, and 14 percent of board members are people of color, respondents reported.

Interestingly, companies that reported being pre-revenue, smaller, and private were more likely than their profitable, larger, public counterparts to have more diverse representation. Twenty percent of small organizations reported having a woman as their CEO compared to 9 percent of large organizations. And 19 percent of privately held organizations reported having a person of color as CEO compared to 6 percent of those that are public.

Of the participating companies, 10 percent have more than 10,000 employees, 36 percent have more than 100, and the remaining 64 percent have fewer than 100. Most were based in the US, and 48 percent reported multinational operations. Forty-six percent are profitable, with 21 percent of those making $100 million or more; the rest, pre-revenue. Fifty-four percent are public, and 46 percent are private.

Regardless of size or profitability, the report reflected broad interest in creating an inclusive environment, with 80 percent of respondents saying their employees demonstrated commitment to doing so, and 73 percent saying their leaders do so. But fewer reported taking many concrete steps toward achieving that goal.

While 82 percent reported having programs and policies in place to increase accountability and reporting of harassment or bias, trainings and “official” diversity and inclusion programming was underway at just over half of the responding organizations, the survey found. And 41 percent reported collecting no common diversity data, such as employee demographics or ranking, pay, and promotion discrepancies.

The report encouraged BIO members and the wider biotech industry to assess their efforts and find ways to advance them. For those who aren’t doing much, the report suggested starting by measuring current metrics and setting goals against them. For those that are already doing so, the report suggests kicking off initiatives such as the implementation of new hiring tactics, such as requiring diverse slates of candidates, and offering formal diversity and inclusion training for leaders and others.

Having published its first status report, BIO says it plans to issue yearly updates. The organization has set ambitious 2025 goals related to gender diversity: It wants to see women make up 50 percent of company leadership positions and hold 30 percent of industry board seats.

Last year BIO launched some tools to help companies along, including a database for finding and referring qualified diverse candidates for boards, and a toolkit with information on best human resources practices, methods of analyzing data for pay equality, dashboards for tracking relevant metrics, and other resources.

Check out the full report here.