According to a report by Assured Pharmacy, of the top ten pharma companies in the world by revenue, only 22 percent of their executive teams are made up of women. While in the board of directors across these top ten, 29 percent are women.
Things are changing, though at a slow pace, in the pharma industry which has long been a playing field for men. The same report notes that 42 percent of STEM professionals are women. However, the same parity progress is not reflected in the C-suite level.
In 2012, when Heather Bresch was appointed as the CEO of Mylan, she became the first woman to head a Fortune 500 company. Emma Walmsley of GSK is the only other woman C-suite leader in big pharma.
We have a long way to go before we achieve gender parity in the number of men and women leaders in pharma, but until then let’s celebrate the women business leaders in the pharma industry who are paving the way for the future of healthcare through diligence, leadership and good-old-fashioned hard work.
Influential women business leaders in the pharma industry
CEO - GlaxoSmithKline
Emma Walmsley is the only woman CEO to lead one of the top ten biggest pharma companies in the world. In her article on Lean In, she writes that before taking up the CEO role, she asked herself questions like, “Am I qualified? How could a mum and wife take on something so big?”
Today, she is not just extremely good at her job but she is also one of the most influential women in pharma. GSK was in hot waters when Walmsley took the helm of the company, an event that was met with critical furor.
Soon she made radical changes like changing about 40 percent of GSK’s executives, purchasing 36 percent stake of Norvatis in GSK consumer health, partnering with genetics startup 23andMe, and concentrating the company’s focus primarily on pharma, vaccines, and GSK consumer health. Walmsley’s efforts revived the company and solidified its reputation of being one of the world’s most important players in pharma.
Co-founder and CEO – 23 and Me
Anne Wojcicki is the co-founder and CEO of the pioneering and the only direct-to-consumer DNA testing company to be cleared by FDA for health tests, 23andMe. 23andMe has sold 10 million kits worldwide and is valued at $2.5 billion. After a decade in healthcare investing, Wojcicki founded the company to help researchers and people better understand their genes and aid the development of new drugs and treatments.
23andMe has built one of the world’s largest genetics database which can be used in developing groundbreaking drugs. The company has partnered with GSK and is taking efforts in drug development using genetic information from its database.
Executive Vice President, Worldwide Chairman –Pharmaceuticals - Johnson & Johnson
Jennifer Taubert has risen through the executive ranks of J&J, the third-largest pharma company in the world by revenue and showcased her mettle at every role. She is responsible for more than 30 percent of J&J’s $72 billion revenue with her leadership in the company’s efforts in medical innovation. Under her leadership, J&J’s pharma arm Janssen has become the world’s third-largest innovative pharmaceutical business and remains a significant contributor to the company’s growth.
She also sits on the corporation’s executive committee and leads the Pharmaceuticals Group Operating Committee.
President and CEO - Caribou Biosciences
Rachel Haurwitz co-founded Caribou Biosciences with Jennifer Doudna – considered to an influential figure in the healthcare industry for inventing the CISPR Cas9. Haurwitz first met Doudna as a grad student in UC Berkeley. There she helped discover CRISPR's potential to edit DNA strands and greatly enhance therapeutics, agricultural biotech and biological research.
As one of one most influential women in pharma, Haurwitz has several patents and research articles on prestigious science journals to her name. She is also the co-founder of Intellia Therapeutics, a company that is using Caribou Biosciences’ extensive technology to develop medicines.
Heather Bresch is the first woman to lead a Fortune 500 pharma company. Her leadership has positioned Mylan as the biggest generic pharma company in the world. It was her leadership that promoted Mylan from being a major generic drugs company in the US to a global one after she led two international acquisitions of Matrix Laboratories and Merck KGaA’s generics business.
Bresch began at Mylan as a clerk and twenty years later in 2012, she stood at the very center of the corporation’s global leadership.
The US Bureau of Labor Statistics noted that 48.6 percent of the workforce employed in the pharma industry are women. It can surely be said that the gender gap in this industry has decreased and achieved parity. The increase is not because of positive discrimination by the pharma companies but because women business leaders in the pharma industry have proved their mettle time and again. Their contribution to 21st century healthcare, both in corporate and in laboratories, gives this industry ample evidences of what women in pharma can achieve at higher echelons.