We're looking for 2019's Fiercest Women in Life Sciences

Pharma companies on the London Stock Exchange almost tripled the number of women on their executive committees in 2019, but hemorrhaged women in top-level roles. (Shutterstock)(Shutterstockk)

It’s becoming a familiar refrain: Women are making headway in the workplace. In 2019, more women are serving in Congress than ever before, and various industries—the life sciences included—are well into implementing programs to boost diversity.

How's pharma doing? By one measure, pretty well. The biggest pharma companies on the London Stock Exchange nearly tripled the number of women on their executive committees between 2018 and 2019.

But that sort of progress didn't extend to all top job titles, and some long-familiar challenges for women remain—in the industry and without.

Take the U.S. national women’s soccer team, which has been petitioning its governing body for equal pay even as it wins more championships and brings in more revenue than the men’s team. Its players sued U.S. Soccer in March for years of “institutionalized gender discrimination,” three years after a wage discrimination complaint filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission went nowhere. 

Things don’t look much better for women in the corporate world overall. In its latest “Women Count” report, which studies the 350 largest companies trading on the London Stock Exchange, U.K. gender diversity business The Pipeline found that a measly 3.7% of companies had a female CEO—down from 4.6% in 2017—and that more than 85% had no female executives on their boards. 

One of those companies was GlaxoSmithKline with its CEO, Emma Walmsley. And pharma companies did a little better than their peers within their executive committees. Pharma's Financial Times Stock Exchange companies almost tripled female representation on exec committees to 26% from 9% in 2018.

But meanwhile, those same companies were losing women in top-level roles with profit and loss responsibility, such as CEOs, chief financial officers, presidents and various levels of vice president and director roles, just to name a few. This figure, already in the single digits in 2018, halved to 4% in 2019. 

Though the outlook seems bleak—The Pipeline doesn’t see pharma's executive committees reaching gender parity until 2090—women continue to rise to the top of the life sciences field, starting their own companies, taking high-level positions and otherwise pushing the envelope. 

And they’re not doing it alone. In an industry where gender balance approaches equity in the rank-and-file but drops precipitously the higher up you look, individual companies and trade groups have come up with programs to help move women up the ladder. And many women leaders are paying it forward, mentoring their younger colleagues, the next generation of movers and shakers. 

Each year at Fierce, we spotlight women who are leading the way in life sciences. From industry professionals and academics to venture capitalists and regulatory officials, women are making their mark all over biotech, pharma and medtech.

We invite you to share your nominations using the form below. We’re looking for women in all three fields who stand out as leaders, innovators and mentors in organizations big and small. Be sure to submit your nominations by 11:59 p.m. EDT Monday, Aug. 19, for consideration in this year’s list, which will be published in November. To get an idea of what we’re looking for, find last year's list here, 2017’s here and 2016’s here.