MassBio and Liftstream Study Shows Gender Gap in Life Sciences Sector Perpetuated by Companies’ Culture, Processes and Talent Management

Data finds 46% of women say they’d reject an employer because of
having an all-male board, all-male management, and because they were
interviewed only by men

CAMBRIDGE, Mass.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–#MassDiversityThe
Massachusetts Biotechnology Council
(MassBio) and executive
recruiting company Liftstream
today released a new report, “Opening
the Path to a Diverse Future
,” a study examining the cause behind
the lack of gender diversity within the Massachusetts life sciences
sector. This report, the most extensive of its kind, explores the
experiences, motivations, and actions of both companies and employees to
evaluate why gender gaps exist at every level of an organization, and
offers a set of recommendations to help companies increase diversity and
inclusion. It shows just how much the current lack of diversity impedes
companies’ ability to attract talent, with 46% of women saying they’d
reject an employer because of having an all-male board, all-male
management, and because they were interviewed only by men.

Women enter the industry in equal proportion to men (49.6% women vs
50.4% men) but the gender-gap grows at all career stages, despite women
aspiring to the C-suite and board positions the same as men. The data
shows that by the time women reach the C-suite, they account for just
24% vs 76% men, and at the board level, just 14.4% vs 85.6% men. Women
who hold SVP or VP positions, a prime talent source for the C-suite, are
the most affected group.

“Not only does this report provide quantitative evidence of the visible
gender inequality in the life sciences industry, it also explains how a
confluence of factors harm women’s career advancement at all stages
despite women entering the pipeline with equivalent potential and
motivation,” said Karl Simpson, CEO of Liftstream. “The findings
challenge some longstanding assumptions and deepen our understanding of
why the gender-gap exists. The industry needs to fix these problems so
women can participate equally throughout the talent pipeline, thereby
ensuring the future leadership at the top of companies is gender diverse
and fully includes women.”

The report identifies the following key factors that contribute to the
loss of women at each stage in their career, including:

  • Recruitment of new employees is too often a result of professional
    networks and not a more structured and comprehensive talent search
    which increases the possibility for diversity.

– Twice as many women (25%) as men (13%) perceive the recruitment
process in their companies as biased.

– Companies do not emphasize career development when recruiting women
while women report future career development as a top reason for joining
their companies.

  • Men and women prioritize different factors when deciding to stay at a
    job, and companies are not offering a menu of compensation and benefit
    options to tailor to individual preferences.

– Women value flexible working significantly more than men (37% vs 25%).

– 64% of women vs 74% of men say they are fairly compensated.

  • There is a major disconnect between what companies believe is working
    to improve diversity and what women see as happening in reality.

– Only 9% of women view their companies as fully inclusive vs 40% of
companies claiming this.

  • Despite proactive efforts to accelerate their careers, women believe
    they receive less recognition than men.

– 33% of women view the performance evaluation/review processes as
biased and unfair vs 19% of men.

– 48% of women believe the wrong people are being promoted vs only 29%
of men.

– 63% of C-level women change careers regularly to scale the ranks vs
21% of C-level men.

“MassBio has long recognized gender diversity as a major problem in the
industry, and now we have the data to quantify why women are not
advancing in their careers at the same rate as men,” said Abbie
Celniker, Chair of the Board of Directors at MassBio & Partner at Third
Rock Ventures. “The ability for life sciences companies to continue to
grow and succeed largely depends on how well they can attract and retain
the best and brightest talent – and that means supporting a more diverse
workforce. While this report focuses on Massachusetts, we believe that
as the world’s leading biotechnology cluster, the findings presented
here are reflective of the industry at large. To truly enact change, we
need commitments from both companies and employees.”

The report also includes seven broad approaches companies can
immediately apply to address the gender gap along with 50 actionable
solutions to improve participation of women in their companies.

To download the full report, visit


This study involved over 900 participants from the Massachusetts life
sciences sector, including individuals who are currently working in the
life sciences sector, those who are unemployed and looking for work, and
those who have left the sector. In addition to individuals, the report
surveyed 70 companies in the industry, with responses segmented by
company sizes: Start-ups (1-30 employees), SME (31-1000 employees) and
Large companies (1000+ employees).

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About MassBio

MassBio is a not-for-profit organization founded in 1985 that represents
and provides services and support for the Massachusetts life sciences
industry. MassBio is committed to advancing Massachusetts’ leadership in
the life sciences to grow the industry, add value to the healthcare
system and improve patient lives. Representing more than 1000+
biotechnology companies, academic institutions, research hospitals, and
service organizations involved in life sciences and healthcare, MassBio
works to advance policy and promote education, while providing member
programs, events, industry information, and services.

About Liftstream

Liftstream is an executive search recruitment practice focused
exclusively on board and executive appointments in the global life
sciences sector. Our clients benefit from the advanced sector knowledge
we possess and the exceptional people we’re able to recruit for them
into positions of leadership.

Since 2003, Liftstream has been strengthening company boards, executive
teams and functional management across international bioscience
clusters, improving the leadership and governance standards of our
clients. We achieve this through comprehensive searches and rigorous
candidate assessments to identify and appoint the person most suited to
our clients’ requirement.

Liftstream also offers consulting services to its clients focused on
diversity, inclusion and talent management.

Liftstream is committed to equal opportunities, diversity, and
inclusion. For more information about Liftstream, please visit


Massachusetts Biotechnology Council
Jennifer Nason
Director of
(617) 674-5103