LGBTQ+ biotech leaders celebrate progress, recognize gaps - Bio.News

Pride Month 2024: LGBTQ+ biotech leaders celebrate progress, recognize gaps

As 2024 Pride Month concludes, the biotech industry reflects on the critical importance of LGBTQ+ representation and the ongoing efforts to foster inclusivity.

The Biotechnology Innovation Organization’s (BIO) 2024 diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) report, “Charting a Path to Inclusive Excellence for Biotechnology Companies,” found that 21% of participating companies reported LGBTQ+ identification information. Of reporting companies, only 0.6% of employees identified as LGBTQ+, compared to 0.8% of executives, and 0.2% of board members. 

These numbers are notably lower than other identification metrics and exemplify both some progress and the work that remains.

Endpoints News celebrates LGBTQ+ leaders at BIO

Endpoints News launched an annual feature on LGBTQ+ biotech leaders in an attempt to turn the tide. This year’s list highlighted amazing work being done by LGBTQ+ leaders in biotech, but also just how much more needs to be done. 

The 2024 list highlighted 15 leaders, 14 of whom accepted, including BIO Board member Eric Dube, President and CEO of Travere Therapeutics. He previously spoke on DEI in biotech during the 2022 BIO International Convention, explaining, “In my early career in large pharma, as a gay man, I didn’t feel like I belonged.” However, he added that the LGBTQ workforce is becoming increasingly empowered. “I can guarantee you that your [employees] are listening to the silence of CEOs that don’t prioritize DEI initiatives, and they will vote with their feet,” he said.

Other honorees include BIO member company employees E. Morrey Atkinson, Chief Technical Operations Officer at Vertex Pharmaceuticals; Björn Oddens, SVP and Head of Value & Implementation Organization at Merck; Francisco Ramírez-Valle, SVP and Head of Immunology and Cardiovascular Thematic Research Center at Bristol Myers Squibb; and Scott Trzaskawka, VP of Enterprise Productivity and Transition Management at Johnson & Johnson.

In a stark reminder of the need that still needs to be met, one honoree notably was not present on the list. 

“Unfortunately, this year, for the first time we had one individual asked not to be identified,” said Kyle LaHucik, Senior Reporter at Endpoints News, who moderated the webinar launching the 2024 list. “It frustrated me at first, but then we found out why this individual was worried about safety and privacy. They also felt a lack of support for the LGBTQ community within biotech and are considering leaving the industry altogether.”

With that in mind, LaHucik decided to keep the 15th spot blank, noting that he could have easily found another worthy honoree from the biotech community, but that “it didn’t feel right just moving on and ignoring the gap that would be left.” This void “symbolizes the ways prejudice can erode progress and visibility and emptiness we as a community can feel because we’re left out of boardrooms, executive teams, and places where discussions about our rights are decided,” explained LaHucik.

DEI leads to better medicine

These voids are important, not only because diverse employees and candidates will “vote with their feet,” but also because greater diversity in biotech leads to better medicine.

“The number one reason across the world that LGBTQ people don’t come out of work is the fear of making others uncomfortable,” said Jane Barry-Moran, Managing Director of Programs & Research at Out Leadership, at the 2024 BIO International Convention.

“I think that it comes back to the fact that DEI is good for business,” she later added. “Businesses know it’s good for business, especially when we are working with our global clients.”

That is why initiatives like OUTBio and BIO’s own Out Leadership are so important. Not only do they build a better LGBTQ+ community within the industry, but they also provide LGBTQ+ professionals with the early career development support they need and provide established LGBTQ+ biotech leaders with the mentoring opportunities they crave. 

Through community, conversation, and a commitment to patient needs, the biotech industry can continue to work to address the needs of LGBTQ+ members, and deliver better medicine for patients at the same time.

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