A party thrown by LifeSci Advisors that coincided with the annual JP Morgan Healthcare Conference in San Francisco underscores biotech's gender diversity problem, Bloomberg Business reports. To compensate for a lack of female guests, the financial communications firm hired female models to mingle among the mostly male guests.
Andrew McDonald, a founding partner at LifeSci, tells Bloomberg that the industry is just mostly men. "When you think about going to a party, when you don't have any models, it's going to be 90/10, or even greater, male-to-female," McDonald says. "Adding in some females changes the dynamic quite a bit."
Despite women earning 39 percent of undergraduate degrees and 38 percent of doctorates in bioengineering and biomedical engineering, Bloomberg notes that there are few female biotech executives.
According to Anna Beninger, the director of research at Catalyst, women have a hard time moving up the ladder at biotech because there's little structure and few mentors. In addition, she says women are often hired for lower-level jobs for less pay than their equally qualified male counterparts, and that drives some women away from the industry.
The atmosphere can also be unwelcoming, Bloomberg adds. Wende Hutton, a partner at venture capital firm Canaan Partners, recalls not being invited on a ski trip while a partner at a different firm because the others didn't want her to feel weird as the only woman there.
But, while at the JP Morgan conference this year, Hutton planned to attend a women-only dinner, suggesting a shift may be coming, Bloomberg says.