Pharma and biotech companies have demonstrated their commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI), particularly with respect to gender equality with more and more women in leadership positions. Insights from women pharma leaders in Europe.
I believe it is more important than ever to build a truly diverse and inclusive organization.
Huzur Devletsah – President & GM Italy, Central Eastern Europe, Russia/CIS & Israel, Eli Lilly
For big pharma companies DEI issues have come to the forefront and led not only to the launch of DEI initiatives, but to the incorporation of wider reaching diversity principals into their overall strategies.
“Diversity, Equity & Inclusion strategies are an integral part and pillar of the ethical principles of MSD Italy: they are not simple abstract concepts, but fundamental values that are transformed into strategic business imperatives,” Nicoletta Luppi, Senior VP & Managing Director – MSD Italia asserted.
“We cannot afford to ignore half of the talent pool in any country or in the world. Also, female leadership has many elements which are needed in today’s complex world, like high appreciation of collaboration and dialogue,” said Paivi Kerkola, Country Manager, Managing Director, President – Pfizer Italy.
“I believe it is more important than ever to build a truly diverse and inclusive organization. Therefore, I will keep acting with conviction and confidence to develop diverse talents that can contribute to creating an environment where people can unleash their full potential and thrive to contribute to our organization’s success,” said Huzur Devletsah – President & GM Italy, Central Eastern Europe, Russia/CIS & Israel, Eli Lilly.
The progress of women in leadership roles
… two thirds of our board are women, 50 percent of our leadership team and managers are women, 63 percent of hires and promotions are for women. Additionally, we were one of the first companies that completely eliminated the gender pay gap.
Nicoletta Luppi, Senior VP & Managing Director – MSD Italia
According to one study the number of women in executive roles went from 21 percent in 2018 to 28 percent in 2021 while BIO’s annual report on diversity in the biotech industry showed improvements over the previous two years, with women now constituting 49 percent of the overall workforce – compared to 47 percent in 2020. Despite these improvements, higher ranking positions are still lagging behind, with women in only 34 percent of the executive teams surveyed and accounting for just 20 percent of the CEOs.
Women leaders in Europe remain positive, however. “I am a woman and I am the Managing Director, two thirds of our board are women, 50 percent of our leadership team and managers are women, 63 percent of hires and promotions are for women. Additionally, we were one of the first companies that completely eliminated the gender pay gap,” said Luppi.
They are also eager to point out that just like their male counterparts they have made their way up the corporate ladder thanks to their merit. “I was appointed here as the first female CEO of Pfizer Italy. But of course, I am not here because I am a woman. I have always been delivering strong results and leading change, whether it is a transition or transformation, and leading teams with good spirit and innovation. Of course, I may also bring diverse points of view because of my different geographic background and gender. This goes well with Pfizer’s idea of diversity and inclusion,” said Kerkola.
Where do companies stand?
Sanofi is very proud of its diversity numbers because more than 53 percent of our organisation are women …
Margarita Lopez Acosta, General Manager Spain – Sanofi
“Sanofi is very proud of its diversity numbers because more than 53 percent of our organisation are women, and when we look at the leadership of the affiliate, that percentage is above 60,” Margarita Lopez Acosta, General Manager Spain – Sanofi commented.
“Pfizer has globally many DE&I-related goals and also a specific one related to female representation on the Vice President level. In 2020 we were at 33 percent and our goal is to reach 47 percent globally by 2025, and we are very close to reaching that. At Pfizer Italy at the moment 46 percent of our employees and 52 percent of our managers are female. 55 percent of the country leadership team members are women,” said Kerkola.
The value of diversity
“I think women have to be brave and self-confident about the value they bring to an organisation and to society and should never stop asking themselves why they do what they do. I think this could be the starting point for a leadership-oriented mindset that we need to encourage,” Luppi said.
Lopez Acosta stated that “there are different ways of seeing things, different mindsets involved. Rather than the difficulties we had in the past around differences, we have to build on the richness of this diversity.”