Celebrating International Women's Day

Walter James has been observing trends within gender diversity across the sectors in which we operate as well as taking a deeper dive into individual functions.  Female leadership varies dramatically by function – it is widely known that 70% of senior HR leaders are women however there is still a dearth of female talent within manufacturing and operations. 

Within the Finance function, last year we saw 13 female CFO’s across the FTSE 100 and 20 across the FTSE 250.  Finance as a function and specifically CFOs are naturally focused on the bottom line, and promoting diversity can sometimes be challenging to measure. However, what we are seeing is a growing trend of forward-thinking CFOs who are eager to invest in diversity knowing that supporting inclusivity will contribute enormously to improved financial outcomes and longer-term benefits.  Companies are also now more willing to overlook what was once a certain strongly desired industry experience in order to introduce more female diversity into their senior leadership teams, reflecting a willingness to seek the best talent from the widest possible pool of candidates.

WJ Portraits Aug 19 1 v2Over the last 18 months we have also witnessed an increasing focus on diversity within Supply Chain.  Historically a male dominated function, identifying and attracting female talent has been difficult. However, we are pleased to see a number of organisations achieving a 50/50 gender balance and most recently, our client Unilever Supply Chain delivered a very encouraging step change with 40% female representation in their management.

Women in the Manufacturing function have always been underrepresented; even though the sector is one that has been flourishing in terms of growth over the years, it has also been facing a shortfall of talent. Women represent a large pool of untapped talent that manufacturing companies are looking to close the gap on. As technology advances, modern manufacturing opens up doors to attract and retain women in diverse and fulfilling career paths and we are pleased to state that our clients are making substantial progress within this function and we are working with them to ensure that we present a diverse group of candidates from which they can make their selection.

Across the legal functions, it is encouraging that women currently make up almost half (48%) of all qualified lawyers in law firms throughout the UK. The differences only become apparent when scaling the seniority ladder; only 29% of partners in large firms (50+ partners) are female. However, improvements can be seen albeit slowly in the largest law firms with the number of female partners there having increased from 25% in 2014 to 27%. There are also a number of informal initiatives in the largest law firms, mainly led by women, which continuously advocate for continued progression in this area.


So what about looking at specific sectors?

JessAcross the retail, FMCG and life science sectors, we have seen noticeable changes and are delighted to see our Clients are embracing diversity in all its forms. Within FMCG for example, we are proud to see that Unilever is a business whereby women account for just over half of all management roles and make up 50% of the board of directors. They have been recognised as one of The Times Top 50 Employers for Women and took a spot on the Thomson Reuters global D&I index in 2018.  

The Life Sciences sector has notoriously been a slow-starter with regard to diversity, however we have also seen noticeable improvements in this space.  Our client, GSK, is a clear stand-out, with a female leader running the show and the business also runs dedicated councils on gender, LGBT+, disability and ethnicity. However, within the sector overall, there is still much to be done.

Last year, research commissioned by the Online giant Assured Pharmacy found that in the top 10 Pharmaceutical companies, the number of men greatly exceeds the number of women in senior leadership roles, in both the executive committees and board of directors. Within these companies, only 34 of the 133 positions on the executive committees are held by females. Johnson & Johnson and Pfizer pave the way with 40% of women holding roles. If we focus our attention on boards of directors, the pattern of gender disparity remains the same: only 34 women sit on the boards of directors of the biggest pharmaceutical companies in the world, compared to 82 male directors. The players with the most diverse boards are GlaxoSmithKline and Sanofi, where women make up at least 40% of their boards of directors.

Anela EditedWe cast the spotlight on two particular areas of specialism within Euromedica, the Life Science arm of Walter James – R&D and the progressive “Early-Stage” pharma companies that are transforming the Pharmaceutical landscape. Even within these areas, there is still work to be done but certainly also some progress.

Looking at the Early-stage landscape, putting VCs under the magnifying glass, we have noted an increasing yet still under-proportioned level of gender diversity, with less than 10% of decision makers at U.S. based VC firms represented by females and only circa 5% of Managing Partners at EU-based venture capital firms represented by females. However, it is encouraging to see not only the number of initiatives, but also the awareness, to address the importance of women in the boardroom and in senior roles.  This, coupled with the rightfully increased spotlight on female leaders in prominent VC funds (who have built and nurtured some of the most successful biotech, Biopharma and MedTech exits over the last 10-20 years) we anticipate that we will see a continued balancing of the scales over the coming decade.

Whilst there’s clear evidence readily available that proves the value that females can offer in R&D leadership positions, we still have a long way to go and more needs to be done to see sufficient progress. From Sophie Lagrange, who built and developed Sanofi’s Tuberculosis research program from scratch to Fiona Marshall, Founder of GPCR specialist biotech ‘Heptares’ and the current Head of UK Drug Discovery for MSD (a top 10 pharma), females have provided indisputable evidence of the value they can add in senior research functions, so why isn’t progress as strong in fields such as finance/tech ops?

Perhaps this is partially attributed to the observation that female R&D Leaders are more common (but still not common enough) in smaller, up-and-coming biotech companies where the focus is more on short/long-term results and performance. In many cases, this is in contrast to top 50 pharma where many of the senior leadership hires can be correlated with an executives existing network in the field, regardless of whether their results are bettered by a female counterpart.

Group Shots 6Whilst slow progress is being made, accelerating this could be achieved by standardising the definition of what makes a strong R&D leader across the board, with all hires made based on results rather than relationships – with this, we will truly see the female innovation potential in R&D.

In light of International Women’s Day, it is important to recognise the strides that have been made in improving gender diversity in the workforce thus far, whilst still maintaining a level of awareness and making continuous efforts to improve. That women are well represented in only some industries and not others, and only at some levels but not all, demonstrates a need to keep our foot on the pedal and strive for ever-equal opportunities across the board. It is clear from the examples cited above that equal representation will only increase in importance with time, and organisations have only to benefit from this fact as they draw from an increasing pool of talent?

 Many of the same trends we have seen over the last few years continue to impact women’s careers and remain relevant across all industries, including lack of work-life balance or flexible working patterns, lack of female role models or mentors, and unconscious or gender bias however, we celebrate the great strides that our clients are making in terms of promoting women. Additonally, at Walter James / Euromedica we are committed to ensuring greater diversity within our own organisation and to that end , one in three of our senior management team is female and three out of three of our most recent hires have been female.

By Jess Carling


By Fiona Motley

Chief Operating Officer

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