Archivist attends “Women In Biotech” symposium at Radcliffe Institute

By , September 29, 2015

Women in Biotech Joan Ilacqua, Project Archivist for the Archives for Women in Medicine, attended the “Women In Biotech” symposium at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study on September 18, 2015. The half-day symposium asked “Why are women underrepresented as leaders in the biotech industry?” and explored the divide between the number of women who pursue advanced degrees in science and the number of women leaders in the field.

The afternoon was split into two sessions, “Defining and Analyzing the Problem” and “Solution and Strategies: What Works and What Has Not,” featured 8 women speakers, with an introduction by Dean of the Radcliffe Institute Lizabeth Cohen.

Dean Cohen pointed out biotech is a field less than 50 years old, and a 2001 report showed that only 10% of biotech leaders were women. The report suggested the tide was about to turn and there would be far more women leaders. 14 years later, the field remains largely the same. Furthermore, women leaders in biotech are often in Human Resources, Communications, or Development departments. As in medicine, about 50% of people pursuing advanced degrees in science are women, so the question remains, where are the women leaders?

Dean Cohen explained that it was time for a change, and the symposium would explore the why and how of that change. She exclaimed “no field… can afford to squander the talent of half its population.”

The challenges women leaders in biotech face mirror those of women leaders in medicine, including finding a work/life balance, working against biases in the workplace, the importance of mentorship and advocating for one’s work and worth, and how to change culture and structure to support women in leadership positions.

The symposium, which was a packed house and went over time due to questions and excellent discussion, was videotaped and will be available online here: https://www.radcliffe.harvard.edu/event/2015-women-in-biotech-symposium.

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