The number of women you'll see on the Boards of biotech companies, heading up research labs, or making up conference agendas is not representative of the numbers of women who are actually a part of the biotech sector. Over half of biotech companies in Europe and the US have all-male Boards and an analysis of speakers at major biotech and healthcare conferences shows that less than 10% of the speakers are women. (Liftstream, Diversifying the Outlook: the X&Y of Biotechnology Leadership
2014). Women only make up 24% of the the STEM workshop in the U.S. and 50% of those tend to drop out of those positions in the first 10 years in the workforce according to the U.S. Department of Commerce, Economics, and Statistics.
We're also seeing more anecdotal evidence of the perception of female scientists in the academic sector. An Internet rallying point for the cause of women in biotech came last week when Nobel prize winner Tim Hunt was speaking at a conference of science journalists.
In his speech Dr. Hunt said "Let me tell you about my trouble with girls....Three things happen when they are in the lab: you fall in love with them, they fall in love with you, and when you criticize them they cry."
While he may not have broken the Internet, the subsequent online discussion and the mainstream media commentary resulted in a surge of awareness of the challenges faced by women in biotech specifically and in science in general.
Women in Bio
is a volunteer organization with 12 chapters in major biotech hubs and they held a special Plenary event at BIO this week.
It wasn't easy juggling everyone's schedule but I managed to convene a panel with Dimitra Georganopoulou, Jamie Strachota, and Kristi Sarno to talk about the obstacles facing women who choose to make a career in the biotechnology industry.
Here is our conversation