Human Resources

‘We have more work to do’: Report unveils state of diversity and inclusion in the biotech sector

Health Industry Hub | June 15, 2022 |
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Human Resources: The annual report that examines diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) in the biotechnology industry launched yesterday at the 2022 BIO International Convention which has attracted a large number of delegates from Australia.

The report Measuring Diversity in the Biotech Industry: Tracking Progress in Small and Large Companies investigates the state of DEI in the biotechnology industry and includes representation data, current DEI approaches and initiatives, and data comparisons to previous reports.

Some of the findings were discussed during the Best Practices for Building an Inclusive Biotech Company panel session at the BIO Convention yesterday.

This year’s report* shows progress, but also highlights the need for DEI improvements in the biotech sector. Of the responding companies, women now make up 49% of employees, compared to 47% in 2020 and 45% in 2019, but only 34% of executive teams and 20% of CEOs.

Employees of colour make up 38% of all employees, but only 24% of executive teams and 28% of CEOs. The survey found meaningful growth in some companies – more than 4 in 10 increased representation of executives of colour by more than 5%.

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“BIO is committed to ensuring that all people are able to participate in – and benefit from – the biotech industry’s efforts to cure patients, protect the climate, and nourish humanity,” said BIO President and CEO Dr Michelle McMurry-Heath.

“This commitment begins with ensuring that the workforce reflects those our industry serves. We have more work to do, and BIO plays an important role as a thought leader and resource for the biotechnology industry.”

“‘Measuring Diversity in the Biotech Industry’ provides valuable and nuanced insight into a critical component of the professional workforce in the biotechnology industry,” said Coqual’s Executive Vice President, Julia Taylor Kennedy, who partnered with BIO for the report.

“As we dive deeper into where companies are today, we have taken a closer look at differences that exist due to company size. The research and findings have progressed – and will continue to do so – as leaders, employees, and markets alike strive to further equity within the industry.” 

Other Key Findings

  1. Most organisations (nearly 80%) indicate that attracting, recruiting, and promoting diverse talent are priorities of their DEI programs.
  2. Small and large organisations differ significantly in the establishment of their HR and DEI functions. While large organisation respondents all have established HR functions (100%) and the vast majority also have DEI programming (86%), half of small organisations have HR staff (50%), and only a few have DEI programming (18%).
  3. Small organisations have opportunities to increase their commitment to DEI. Four out of 10 small companies have a stated goal to create an inclusive environment and 37% have a public commitment to diversity.
  4. Large companies set DEI commitments, but could improve accountability. Only 15% of large organisations consider workforce diversity in leadership evaluations, and DEI metrics impact performance evaluations and/or compensation for leaders in only 23% of large organisations.
  5. Large companies should focus on sustaining and growing existing DEI efforts. For example, only 32% of large employers require diverse pools of candidates for senior positions and only 28% have sponsorship programs.
  6. Small organisations should focus on prioritised DEI initiatives and setting up Employee Resource Groups (ERGs). Fewer than one out of 10 small organisations have ERGs compared to almost 80% large organisations.

This year’s survey asked companies about the support they would like to get from BIO. More than half wanted BIO to provide best practices for DEI efforts and companies also want more education on organisational approaches to DEI. 

Through its BIOEquality Agenda, BIO works to counteract the systemic inequality, injustice and unfair treatment of underserved communities continues. Since last year’s report, BIO hosted its first Clinical Trial Diversity Summit and launched a new website, Clinical Trials: The Power of Participation (CTPoP), which provides patients, families, clinicians, and others with scientifically sound resources on clinical trials. 

BIO also launched the Forum for Diversity in Biotech and STEM, a LinkedIn group that connects companies and promising talent to ensure that the biotech workforce hires and promotes the best talent available. It also expanded its relationships with established professional organisations such as Out Leadership, I Am a Scientist, and Women In Bio.

*The report analyses the findings from a voluntary survey of 99 BIO member companies fielded from November 2021 to January 2022.

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