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  • Writer's pictureMiriam Grobman

Does Your CEO See the World Through a Gender Lens?

Gender diversity, women in leadership, CEO agenda

Many companies fail to achieve progress not because of shortage of diversity programs but rather the lack of interest and commitment from the CEO and the leadership team. Disinterested leaders outsource change to HR departments and Chief Diversity Officers, who then go on copying random initiatives from other companies who themselves are not doing too great on the same front. I sat in various depressing meetings with HR diversity advocates who were helplessly struggling to get any initiative off the ground, in lieu of support (and budget!) from top leadership. They were basically paying lip service to "promoting diversity at the company." Last month I met with "Renato", a president of a Brazilian subsidiary of a large pharma company. It was one of the easiest conversations I've ever had with a male executive about the topic of women in leadership. He was so enthusiastic about creating a more diverse leadership pipeline and a welcoming environment for employees of different backgrounds. He had taken the role of provoking the people in his organization to pay attention to things that didn't make sense. Renato embarked on an investigative journey to understand why women were not reaching top roles. He was looking at his leadership pipeline and seeing that women often dropped off the race around the time they became mothers IF they didn't have support at home and/or at work. It was clear to him that if we didn't fix the leak in the middle, we will forever complain that "there are just not enough candidates." He highlighted his experience while working in Australia, allowing women (and men) to do job shares and work part-time. Diving deeper into the details, he saw that although his company, on average, had a high percentage of women in leadership roles, the situation looked very different across the different divisions; all his sales leaders were men and all his development leaders were female. He brought the discussion to his leadership team, challenging them to think of solutions and better understand the recruiting and career development approaches. I'm sure that Renato isn't perfect, and he makes and will make mistakes along the way just like anybody else, but he is definitely on the right path to progress - questioning the status quo. If we want to see large-scale change, we need to get more Renatos and Renatas at the top of companies, support them with data and engagement tools and help them empower "mini-me"s who will implement change throughout those organizations. Change needs to come from the business leadership in a way that makes sense for the business.


The Numbers: Women in Pharma

Pharma is an interesting industry for discussing women's leadership pipeline in that more women than men join healthcare and pharma companies today yet, the participation of women in executive roles hovers around 20%, similarly to other industries. Last year, GlaxoSmithKline was the first big pharma company to appoint a female CEO, Emma Walmsly. Percentage of women in pharmaceutical and medical products industry by level

source: and Mckinsey, Women in the Workplace, 2017

If you're interested in learning more about the challenges that women at the various levels in Biotech face, check out this fantastic article: Why can’t the drug industry solve its gender diversity problem?


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