bio 2022

Progress, potential revealed in BIO diversity report

By Jenni Spinner contact

- Last updated on GMT

(Photo: Jenni Spinner)
(Photo: Jenni Spinner)

Related tags: BIO International Conference, diversity, equity, Clinical trials, biotech, Biotech companies

Unveiled at the 2022 BIO International Convention, the group's third annual diversity, equity, and inclusion report spotlights improvements both made and needed.

During the 2022 BIO International Convention (taking place in San Diego June 13-16), BIO released its third annual report on diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) in the industry. “Measuring Diversity in the Biotech Industry: Tracking Progress in Small and Large Companies,” takes an in-depth look at the current state of DEI in the biotechnology industry, including progress made and areas for improvement.

The findings were outlined during the convention panel, “Best Practices for Building an Inclusive Biotech Company.” The association partnered for the study (as it did with the two previous iterations) with Coqual, a think tank focused on workplace DEI. The report analyzes findings from a voluntary survey of 99 BIO member companies, polled from November 2021 to January 2022.

While the third annual report outlines progress, it also shines a light on the need for further improvements in the sector. Among the findings:

  • Out of all the companies responding to the survey, women make up 49% of employees, compared to 47% in 2020 and 45% in 2019. However, female staff only comprise 34% of executive teams and 20% of CEOs.
  • People of color make up 38% of all employees, but only 24% of executive teams and 28% of CEOs.
  • More than four in 10 respondent companies increased representation of executives of color by in excess of 5%.

BIO is committed to ensuring that all people are able to participate in – and benefit from – the biotech industry’s efforts to cure patients, protect the climate, and nourish humanity​,” said Michelle McMurry-Heath, president and CEO of BIO. “This commitment begins with ensuring that the workforce reflects those our industry serves. We have more work to do, and BIO plays an important role as a thought leader and resource for the biotechnology industry​.”

Other key findings include:

  • Nearly 80% of respondents report that attracting, recruiting, and promoting diverse talent are priorities of their DEI programs.
  • Small and large organizations differ notably in the establishment of their HR and DEI functions—while large companies indicated they have established HR functions (100%) and 86% have DEI programming (86%), only half of small organizations have HR staff (50%), and just 18% have DEI programming.
  • There are opportunities for smaller organizations to grow their DEI commitments; four out of 10 small companies have a stated goal to foster a more inclusive environment, with 37% indicating a public commitment to diversity.
  • Larger companies frequently have set DEI commitments but have room for improvement in terms of accountability. For example, just about 15% of large organizations consider workforce diversity in leadership evaluations, and DEI metrics have an impact on performance evaluations and/or compensation for leaders in only 23% of such companies.
  • There is a need for larger companies to center on sustaining and growing existing DEI efforts. Only 32% of large employers require diverse pools of candidates for senior positions; only 28% have sponsorship programs.
  • Small organizations could better focus on prioritized DEI initiatives and establishing employee resource groups (ERGs); fewer than one out of 10 small organizations have ERGs (by comparison, nearly 80% of large organizations do).

Coqual executive vice president Julia Taylor Kennedy commented, “‘Measuring Diversity in the Biotech Industry’ provides valuable and nuanced insight into a critical component of the professional workforce in the biotechnology industry. As we dive deeper into where companies are today, we have taken a closer look at differences that exist due to company size. The research and findings have progressed – and will continue to do so – as leaders, employees, and markets alike strive to further equity within the industry​.”

The 2022 edition of BIO’s DEI survey questioned companies about the support they would like to receive from the organization. More than 50% of respondents expressed interest in BIO sharing best practices for DEI efforts; companies also said they would like additional education on organizational approaches to DEI. 

BIO, via its BIOEquality Agenda, endeavors to counter systemic inequality, injustice, and unfair treatment of underserved communities. Since the 2021’s report, BIO

  • hosted its first Clinical Trial Diversity Summit
  • launched its Clinical Trials: The Power of Participation (CTPoP) website to provide resources on study participation
  • started launched the Forum for Diversity in Biotech and STEM LinkedIn group, connecting companies and promising talent
  • expanded relationships with established professional organizations such as Out Leadership, I Am a Scientist, and Women in Bio.

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