Current thinking

International Women’s Day

International Women’s Day – Where are we and where do we need to be?

Marked days are a good chance to take stock and reflect on the situation, so on International Women’s Day I decided to ask myself; amongst commercial divisions of pharmaceutical companies, where are we with gender gap and if all isn’t equal, how do we get there?

Why look at the gender pay gap?
The gender pay does not compare whether men and women in like for like roles receive the same wage, it compares average wages between genders. This makes the gender pay gap a good indicator as to whether senior roles in companies are held by equal numbers of men and women.

Is it important for an organisation to have women in senior roles?
It has been established through several credible reports that companies with more than one woman on their board of directors perform better than companies with all-male boards. How is performing better decided? A number of metrics are compared but crudely, companies with more than one woman on their board have higher share values than those without.

Does a gender pay gap exist?
When reviewing gender pay gap reports from a good number of well-known UK pharmaceutical companies, except for a very small few, a stark gap exists. This suggests the ratio of men to women moving into senior roles is not equal, but favours men.

What is stopping women progressing on to board level roles?
Women do not have a diminished desire to go on to senior roles. In 2017, McKinsey reported that women have similar levels of ambition to men.

The same report identifies a confidence gap between the genders, with only 15% of women feeling confident to take on senior roles vs 75% of men.

Solutions need to focus on raising confidence in women and the following 4 initiatives have been shown to be of positive benefit to support women into senior roles:

  1. Offer mentoring and coaching to develop female leaders.
  2. Develop external partnerships to enable ongoing development and networking. Organisations like the HBA can be a real support.
  3. Ensure organisations are unbiased in their approach to training, promotion and recruitment.
  4. Offer flexible working to allow women to both fulfil family and workplace responsibilities.

To summarise
Currently we can see as a general rule, in UK pharmaceutical organisations, women don’t make it into board level roles as readily as their male counterparts despite them having similar levels of ambition and companies financially benefitting from having women on the board.

We have identified 4 simple steps to help raise confidence in women to attain senior positions and we should look our own company and ask:

  1. Do we have a mentoring or coaching scheme in place that is helping women?
  2. Are we supporting external networking?
  3. Are we unbiased with our training and development planning?
  4. Are we offering flexible working?

If the answer is ‘no’, think about what can you do to drive change in your organisation and help your female peers and company flourish?


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