We're looking for 2020's Fiercest Women in Life Sciences

In a survey of more than 100 companies, the Biotechnology Innovation Organization found pre-revenue biotechs were more likely to have a female CEO than commercial-stage ones, while small biotechs were twice as likely as large ones to have a woman at the helm. (Christina @ wocintechchat.com/Unsplash)

GlaxoSmithKline chief Emma Walmsley finally has some company. Three years after she became the first woman to run a Big Pharma company, she was joined by Vertex’s new CEO, Reshma Kewalramani, M.D., who took the reins from Jeff Leiden in April. But there is more to be done.

Across industries, female representation in the C-suite has grown to 21% from 17% in 2015, according to the most recent “Women in the Workplace” report by McKinsey and Lean In, the nonprofit founded by Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg. The report found that 44% of the 329 companies it surveyed had three or more women in the C-suite, up from 29% of companies in 2015.

As far as commercial pharma goes, however, Walmsley and Kewalramani are among just a handful of women CEOs, which includes United Therapeutics’ Martine Rothblatt, Lundbeck’s Deborah Dunsire and Mylan’s Heather Bresch, who is set to retire. Walmsley remains the only female CEO of a top 20 biopharma company.

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It looks a little better at smaller, pre-revenue biotechs. After setting up and ratifying a group of diversity goals in 2017, the Biotechnology Innovation Organization (BIO) compiled its first report card in January this year. In a survey of more than 100 members, the trade group found that pre-revenue biotechs were more likely to have a female CEO than commercial-stage ones (22% versus 9%), while small biotechs were twice as likely as large ones to have a woman at the helm (20% versus 9%).

But even clinical-stage companies aren’t exempt from female representation that drops off the higher up the ranks you look: Although women account for 45% of all employees, the survey found, they make up only 30% of executive teams and 18% of biotech company board members.

Industry groups like BIO, states like California and countries including Norway, Germany and France are implementing programs and laws to boost diversity. Women leaders are pitching in, too. Walmsley herself joined some of the U.K.’s most successful businesswomen in the #MeTooPay campaign, which aims to close the gender pay gap, while Gossamer Bio CEO Sheila Gujrathi, M.D., has made it a priority to support other female CEOs, women seeking leadership opportunities and women in STEM fields. Sara Kenkare-Mitra, Genentech’s senior vice president of development sciences, has emphasized the importance of “investing in the next generation of female—and male—scientists and leaders,” so that there is a diverse pool of talent from which to recruit.

RELATED: 'An incredibly stubborn challenge': Board diversity in U.K. life sciences companies

Each year at Fierce, we spotlight women like Walmsley, Gujrathi and Kenkare-Mitra, 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. 17, 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, 2018’s here and 2017’s here.