5 Tips on How to Attract More Women to Your Life Sciences Company

Historically, STEM careers have been seen as a man’s world. It’s an outdated view, but one that has proven hard for society to shake. While UNESCO reported in 2013 that women accounted for over half – 53% – of the world’s bachelor’s and master’s graduates, they made up just 28% of the world’s STEM researchers.


Making science a viable option for women is vital for the ongoing health and prosperity of the discipline, and of humanity as a whole. To disregard women is to disregard half of all brainpower on earth, which isn’t a particularly brainy move.


As the International Day of Women and Girls in Sciences is approaching (11 February 2019), we wanted to share some tips with you on how to make your Life Sciences company an attractive place for women to work in!

Europe: The Global Leader in Gender Equality

Happily, one STEM field in one region is showing the rest of the world how gender equality is done. In Europe female representation has almost reached parity with men in the life sciences. In most of Europe the percentage of female life science professionals sits between 45% and 55%, and in many Eastern European countries, such as Estonia, Latvia and Ukraine, no less than two thirds of life sciences graduates are female. This is far from a global phenomenon – otherwise developed and technologically advanced nations like Japan and South Korea have some of the lowest female STEM representation in the world. But while other regions struggle to lure women to science, Europe is making it look easy.

The role of women in life sciences has evolved in recent decades, and this evolution has accelerated even further in recent years. From the brave icebreakers who entered the industry through the mid to late 20th century, women have slowly gained more confidence within the industry. To many, the final frontier is leadership. Speaking to FiercePharma, Samantha Budd Haeberlein, Biogen’s Head of Clinical Discovery and Development for Alzheimer’s Disease, took stock. “We have gone from one women on the leadership team to three or five: getting closer to equal numbers. The conversation today is louder, more open and more acceptable; not just the last bullet on a HR agenda topic.”


The Importance of Women in Life Sciences

Cogent Skills found that four out of five life sciences organisations have vacancies that are affected by skills shortages, and 72% consistently struggled to find appropriate applicants for ‘hard-to-fill’ positions. This describes, in a nutshell, the skills shortage crisis that the life sciences sector currently faces.

Thankfully much of the world still has a life sciences resource that remains largely untapped – women. And while many European nations have already achieved equal representation in the sector, the region’s job is far from done. As the global leader, it’s Europe’s responsibility to show the rest of the world exactly how to attract more women to the industry.

The best way to encourage other parts of the world to fill the life sciences skills shortage is by broadcasting the success stories. Stories like that of Bonnie Anderson, founder and CEO of diagnostics company Veracyte, who credits her success to the wealth of female role models she enjoyed during her formative years at Coulter Pharmaceuticals, where the President, CFO, Head of Business Development and Heads of Marketing were all female.

Strong female role models inspiring more strong female role models; it’s a story echoed throughout the life sciences field. Liz Barrett, former Global President and GM of Pfizer Oncology (who now heads UroGen Pharma), Christiana Stamoulis, CFO of Unum Therapeutics, and Dominika Kovacs, Head of R&D at Takeda all describe similar experiences, where successful and powerful women in the industry helped to broaden their horizons.


So How Exactly can a Company in Life Sciences Attract More Women?

It’s vital that European life science organisations don’t sit on their hands. Getting women to equal representation took real effort, and it will take further effort to retain the gender balance and ensure that your company is a preferred destination for top female talent. Below our five tips to attract more women to your Life Sciences Company.


1. Close the Gender Pay Gap

Across Europe women in STEM jobs get paid an average of 19% less than their male counterparts. Addressing this gap is not just a matter of guaranteeing that both male and female employees are receiving the same pay for the same work; a company must also ensure that both sexes are equally represented in high-powered positions, to ensure salary numbers aren’t skewed by a higher number of males in more lucrative posts. Female representation in the C-suite will also encourage more women to pursue the same professional goals.


2. Offer Flexible Working Conditions

Women fall pregnant. Men do not. Historically this has seen bias form in the hiring practices of some life sciences organisations. Men might be hired over women, resulting in a male dominated organisation that female professionals are hesitant to take jobs within. But reviewing your talent acquisition strategy and offering women (and indeed all employees) flexible working conditions can both entice more women to work for your organisation and ease the strain on the organisation should the employee’s circumstances change, and the need to work from home or outside of normal hours arise.


3. Develop a Female-Friendly Employer Brand

Your employer brand is how those outside your organisation perceive what it’s like to work within it. Preferred employers actively tend to their employer brand; when you think of Google HQ, you probably think of in-house chefs, ping pong tables and executives scootering from one meeting to another.
Life Sciences companies can make their employer brand more appealing to women by being active on Glassdoor, hiring female brand ambassadors, and asking current female employees to share their experiences of working within your organisation.


4. Host Women-Centric In-House Events

Why not show female graduates the opportunity you’re offering first-hand? Hosting a ‘Women in Life Sciences Day’ provides you with the perfect opportunity to sell yourself to the next generation of female life science professionals and helps to position your organisation as a leader in the space. Bring in female speakers to encourage and inspire the graduates and show them exactly what their future could look like if they launch or progress their career within your four walls.

The global life science sector is facing a skills shortage. Thankfully this shortage has a solution – greater female representation. As Europe has already demonstrated, it only takes a few high-profile, high-powered women to break the ice, and change deeply entrenched attitudes.

If the continent’s lead is followed, the current trickle of female life science professionals seen in some countries will quickly turn into a flood.


5. Outsource Your Recruitment Process

Our recruitment consultants know exactly how to help your company achieve their targets in terms of hiring qualified professionals. Panda International offers RPO services, helping you find professionals with the right skill set to fill out your jobs. Contact us for more information or post your job directly to our platform.


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