Gender Diversity in Indian Pharma


India could boost its GDP by USD 0.7 trillion in 2025 by matching the rate of improvement of gender equality of the leading country in its region. Despite the prevalence of gender disparity in India, where only two percent of women attain leadership positions; several inspirational women are blazing trails in Indian pharmaceuticals, paving the way for greater female contributions in the future.

“To me, ‘diversity’ has never been to be ‘different’, but to be able to blend in, while retaining your core strengths”

Magline Rufia, Roche Diagnostics

A 2015 McKinsey Global Institute (MGI) report, The Power of Parity: How advancing women’s equality can add $12 trillion to global growth, on the economic implications of lack of parity between men and women, posited that a ‘best-in-region’ scenario, in which all countries match the rate of improvement of the fastest-improving country in their region could add as much as $12 trillion, or 11 percent, to the globe’s annual GDP by 2025.

The report shows that India could boost its GDP by USD 0.7 trillion in 2025 or 16 percent of the business-as-usual level, the largest relative boost of any country included in the analysis. This translates into 1.4 percent per year of incremental GDP growth for India. Jonathan Woetzel and James Manyika, directors of the MGI, explain that “about 70 percent of the increase comes from raising India’s female labor-force participation rate by 10 percentage points, from 31 percent at present to 41 percent in 2025, to bring 68 million more women into the economy over this period.”

It is worth noting that worldwide only five percent of women manage to make it to leadership positions, while at junior level the gap is almost negligible. In India, only two percent of women attain leadership positions. In the Indian pharmaceutical industry specifically, women make up only 15 percent of the workforce. Assumptions that women are not the sole income providers for their families and need, therefore, a different pay rate or simply that women are more likely to drop out to take care of other commitments contribute to this scenario.

Sharadha Iyer, a senior product manager at Lupin and author of the guest editorial piece ‘Closing the Gender Gap in Indian Pharma’ published on, points out that despite the many challenges that women regularly face, the Indian pharmaceutical environment has a number of role models in this battle to reduce the gender gap such as Biocon chairperson and managing director, Kiran Mazumdar Shaw; Lupin CEO, Vinita Gupta; and Piramal Industries’ vice-chairperson, Dr. Swati Piramal.

Biocon’s Shaw has previously stated that “I faced a number of challenges setting up Biocon. I could not get banks to fund me; I could not recruit people to work for a woman boss. Even in the business where I had to procure raw materials, they did not want to deal with women.” Now, she is in the ranking of the TIME magazine’s 100 most influential people in the world and is recognized as a global thought leader for the biotechnology industry.

Similarly, Magline Rufina of Roche Diagnostics India says “I am glad I am a part of the Indian diagnostics industry! To me, ‘diversity’ has never been to be ‘different’, but to be able to blend in, while retaining your core strengths. From the very start, focusing on ways to bring value to the business and addressing some of its challenges, has helped me blend in, as the organization begins to see you as being one in their endeavor. They see you bringing a creative, new perspective, but aimed at achieving the common goal. This has been my experience in a nutshell at Roche Diagnostics India. I am no more a woman colleague, I am a ‘colleague’ to Roche Diagnostics India employees!”

Writer: Luca Nardini

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