Can the biotech sisterhood break the glass ceiling?

Speaking at a TED Talk 12 years ago, then-COO of Facebook Sheryl Sandberg asked her audience a question, one that remains a mystery today: “Why do we have too few women leaders?”

Gender disparities in business across numerous industries have been improving, but the number of women in leadership roles still remains low.

Sanders’ TED Talk picked business leader Laurie McGraw’s brain and inspired her to write the book “Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead.” The bestseller kickstarted a new trend, a generation of women entrepreneurs, seeking to break the glass ceiling and find their place as leaders in the corporate world.

In the new podcast episode of I am BIO, three successful women sit down to discuss the topic of female corporate leadership, how much progress has been made, and what more can be done to move forward and up the ladder.

What are the numbers saying?

For Anna Rath, CEO of Vestaron, it’s women who make companies more successful.

“[It] matters that women are at this table because diversity, and in particular women as part of that, make companies better,” she notes, adding that companies that have a gender-diverse staff and leadership are 25% more likely to reach higher profits. In addition, Rath says that the revenues of companies with an equal number of male and female employees are approximately 41% higher.

Still, less than 10% of Fortune 500 CEOs are women, and for women of color, the numbers are drastically lower—with only 1 in 20 holding an executive role.

Some progress has been made in the past decade or two, but Grace Colón, Ph.D., says “not enough.” The longtime biotech executive, entrepreneur, and board member says that the “percentage of female investment partners and VCs is still in the single digits, or maybe in the low teens depending on the various industries, but the percentage of VC funding that goes to women-led companies is still in the single digits.”

“It’s better for biotech,” says Erika Smith, CEO of ReNetX Bio. “About 35% of executive teams have women and about 20% are CEOs.”

Introducing the biotech sisterhood

“The biotech sisterhood is the antidote to the pharma bros,” said Angie You, Ph.D., Chief Executive Officer at Architect Therapeutics, in a conversation with Bio.News.

The biotech sisterhood is the name of an informal networking group that was started by Angie You, Sheila Gujrathi, and Julia Owens and has the goal to boost opportunities, support, and mentor women.

The hunger for more, as Colón explains, led to “an instant connection” among the women who took part in the first networking event in Arizona, resulting in cofounding companies and other collaborative efforts.

“You know, this is a group that’s come together very collaboratively, very intentionally to help each other, and not just help each other in our current roles, which is certainly very important, but it’s also to help the next generation because we know how important it is to be bringing other women and other diverse candidates up as we grow our own businesses and we move along in our careers as well,” Smith adds.

The biotech sisterhood has organized fly-ins for female CEOs to meet with members of Congress, among other things. It has also moderated and seated panels and collaborated with groups like the Biotechnology Innovation Organization (BIO) on these endeavors.

“The pie can be much bigger if we allow more women and people of color to be in positions of power, bringing new ideas,” Colón says.

To listen to the full episode of I am BIO, click the following link, or visit your favorite podcast app.

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