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Biotech falls short on diversity in workplace, exec teams, according to report

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The largest trade organization for biotechnology companies has put out its first annual report on diversity in the workplace. The verdict: There’s work to be done.

The Biotechnology Innovation Organization, or BIO, released the report on Thursday, based on data collected from 98 responding member companies in May and June 2019. The report found that overall, there was a slight lack of parity in terms of gender, while in terms of race and ethnicity, responding companies were not representative of the U.S. population. The disparities grew even larger when the report looked at companies’ executive teams and boards.

“This report is just the beginning,” Joanne Duncan, president of BIO’s membership and business operations division, wrote in a letter in the report. “As we move toward achieving the goals and principles we’ve set, we will continue to implement new strategies and advance policies that fulfill our mission to heal, fuel and feed the world.”

The report found that among respondents, 45% of employees were women, a figure that approaches gender parity. However, it shrank at higher levels in the companies: Women made up 30% of company executives and 18% of board members, while 16% of CEOs were women. Meanwhile, 32% of employees were people of color, who made up 15% of executives, 14% of board members and 12% of CEOs. Black and Latino employees were especially underrepresented, and there was no significant representation of people who were Native American, Alaskan Native, Hawaiian Native or Pacific Islander.

Still, smaller firms represented a bright spot. Pre-revenue companies were more likely than those making a profit to have women as CEOs and people of color making up one-quarter of their executives. Small companies overall were also more likely to have women CEOs, and private companies were more likely to have CEOs who were people of color.

Moreover, a majority of companies reported trying to improve. Eighty percent of employees and 73% of leaders were reported to have demonstrated a commitment to creating inclusive environments. About half of responding companies include diversity and inclusion as values or priorities, and nearly one-third have creating an inclusive environment as a stated goal.

Support for LGBT people was also reported to be widespread. Among respondents, 71% of LGBT people and 82% of those who support and advocate on their behalf reported they were more likely to purchase goods or services from pro-LGBT companies. Seventy-two percent of supporters said they were more likely to accept a job at a company that was also supportive.

Still, among 62 companies that responded to the question of whether there were employee resource or affinity groups, only 21% reported having them for LGBT people, while 27% and 19% reported having them for women and people of color, and 73% reported having no such groups.

Photo: Rawpixel, Getty Images

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