Life sciences companies face a looming talent crisis

Thursday, April 28, 2016 Corporate News J E 4
- Only 20% of life sciences companies have formal programs that develop women's careers

BOSTON, April 28, 2016 /PRNewswire/ -- Life sciences industry executives are increasingly concerned they are not doing enough to attract and retain women in their organizations, according to Navigating disruption without gender diversity? Think again, a new EY survey on industry-wide gender parity. The survey reveals that 53% of industry executives admit they are currently underutilizing women within their ranks. And yet, 72% of life sciences executives surveyed agree that having greater gender diversity at all levels of their business improves financial performance.

The survey suggests a looming threat of disruption facing the wider industry, as life sciences companies advance boldly into a digitally driven, patient-centric future. Challenged by this new environment, 73% of industry executives admit that dramatic changes are needed in how they attract, retain, engage and promote talent. In particular, life sciences executives are striving to achieve diversity of thought and experience within their leadership teams — something 57% say is currently lacking within their organizations. Overwhelmingly, 90% of industry executives agree that new leaders and leadership skills will make the difference in adapting to the disruptive changes impacting the sector.

Kim Ramko, EY Global Life Sciences Advisory Services Leader, says:

"Life sciences leaders know they need to reimagine their business models to meet the evolving needs of payers, providers, patients, consumers and regulators. They also understand that without change, their businesses will either fail to thrive or fail altogether. Yet, despite valuing diversity, many life sciences organizations are currently not addressing the gender gap in a way that will deliver the real change that is needed to succeed."

The survey affirms that few organizations have taken concrete steps to address these issues. Strikingly, 19% of female industry executives and only 16% of male industry executives believe their organizations are effective at retaining women. 

It is then little surprise that only 20% of life sciences companies have a structured, formal program to identify and develop women's careers in leadership within their organizations. An even smaller percentage (13%) of companies have an informal program to identify and develop women's careers in leadership but with no plans to formalize it. Nearly half of respondents (47%) say they develop women and men equally as part of an existing leadership program — and they have no intention of changing it.

And while more than a third of life sciences executives (42%) believe they are very effective at attracting women, only 27% of female industry executives compared to  32% of male industry executives agree that their organizations' retention strategies are very effective. And when it comes to identifying future female leaders and promoting women into leadership positions, only 19% of executives say their company could do better.

Looking to the future, a majority of life sciences leaders (63%) expect to see only a slight increase in the proportion of women in senior leadership positions within their organizations over the next five years. Twenty five percent of executives expect to see no change at all.

Ramko says: "As life sciences companies transform themselves to meet the expectations of a rapidly changing landscape, they must reconsider their existing recruitment models to attract and retain women and diverse groups to their workforce. This means making it a priority at the board level and investing in initiatives to achieve a truly diverse workforce."

Notes to Editors

About EY

EY is a global leader in assurance, tax, transaction and advisory services. The insights and quality services we deliver help build trust and confidence in the capital markets and in economies the world over. We develop outstanding leaders who team to deliver on our promises to all of our stakeholders. In so doing, we play a critical role in building a better working world for our people, for our clients and for our communities.

EY refers to the global organization, and may refer to one or more, of the member firms of Ernst & Young Global Limited, each of which is a separate legal entity. Ernst & Young Global Limited, a UK company limited by guarantee, does not provide services to clients. For more information about our organization, please visit

This news release has been issued by EYGM Limited, a member of the global EY organization that also does not provide any services to clients.

About the survey

As part of EY's commitment to building a better working world, EY asked 51 senior life sciences executives from 14 countries about gender diversity. The participants included global board executives and board members, C-level officers, executive directors and heads of business units.

Respondents were 51% female and 49% male and averaged 50 years of age. Nearly 60% have worked in life sciences for their entire career, with more than 80% having 10+ years of industry experience. Their functional backgrounds span risk management, technology, finance, legal and regulatory, actuarial, sales and marketing, and human resources.

How EY's Global Life Sciences Sector can help your business

Life sciences companies — from emerging start-ups to multinational enterprises — face new challenges in a rapidly changing health care ecosystem. Payers and regulators are increasing scrutiny and accelerating the transition to value and outcomes. Big data and patient-empowering technologies are driving new approaches and enabling transparency and consumerism. Players from other sectors are entering health care, making collaborations increasingly complex. These trends challenge every aspect of the life sciences business model, from R&D to marketing. Our Global Life Sciences Sector brings together a worldwide network — more than 9,000 sector-focused assurance, tax, transaction and advisory professionals — to anticipate trends, identify their implications and develop points of view on responding to critical issues. We can help you navigate your way forward and achieve success in the new ecosystem.

Peter KelleyEY Global Media Relations+1 424 376

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