To the Point - Not quite there yet
This is the third year I’ve been doing interviews of women executives in the pharma industry and have shared their experiences and their perspectives on what it takes to rise. While it’s clear that there are many women who have risen to upper-level positions, there is still some way to go. There are still no female CEOs among the top 15 pharmaceutical and biotech companies, even though at many of these companies, women comprise about half the management.
Then again, the presence of so many women in pharma executive management bodes well for a future in which we’ll see a female CEO of a Pfizer, a J&J, a GlaxoSmithKline, or a Sanofi. Women are already running divisions of these companies, and there has been a concerted effort among the top pharmas to build a deep bench of women with C-suite leadership potential. A woman pharma CEO among the top 15 or 20 is not a possibility; it’s an inevitability. There is already a woman CEO in the top 50 pharmaceutical companies: Heather Bresch of Mylan, the 25th highest-ranking pharma company in terms of healthcare income, generating $6.19 billion in 2011.
But an article from Bloomberg News last month has given me pause. According to Carol Hymowitz and Cécile Daurat, who looked at the payment of CEOs at the S&P 500 companies and how many women were among them, they found that about 20 of the 500 CEOs were women, just 8 percent of the total.“Those high-achievers on average earned $5.3 million, 18 percent less than men,” the writers say.
“Even after graduating from the same business schools, women tend to start out at lower salaries than men, and many don’t catch up later in their careers. Female executives say they can be less demanding than men when it comes to pay, partly out of fear of being labeled as overly aggressive and self-centered,” the writers say.
And what is more, women CEOs are lagging behind their male counterparts in certain industries. Bloomberg notes that Bresch was paid $9.96 million in 2012, 33 percent less than the average chief of a pharmaceutical, biotechnology, and life sciences company.
So how do you develop the strength to lean in and become a leader in the first place? All of the women I have spoken with over the years had parents and mentors who encouraged them to rise above restrictive gender roles. From playing sports not previously open to girls to entering fields of work dominated by men, these women did not take, “But girls don’t do that,” as an answer.
The female chief executives and upper-level executives I spoke with did not discuss their compensation, but they did say that for a woman to succeed, she needs to acquire champions and mentors in the workplace. Looking at the stats gathered by Bloomberg, women are certainly leaning in – but maybe not quite hard enough.
Unfortunately, the drumbeat of negative messages girls and young women are receiving has become even more relentless and inescapable in our social media-connected world. For example, many girls and women who like to participate in multiplayer online video games have reported being harassed. In February, Emily Matthew on the Pricecharting blog found that 80 percent of 874 respondents polled believe sexism is rampant in the gaming community, and 35 percent have been on the receiving end of sexual harassment while playing online. As VG24/7 reported the study, “63 percent of women reported being called a ‘c*nt, bitch, slut, and whore.” Others reported they were threatened with sexual assault, or asked for sexual favors, and stereotypical comments regarding female gender roles were prevalent as well. We’re assuming these comments include, but were not limited to: “Go make me a sandwich,” or, “Get back in the kitchen and make me some pie.” Sexual harassment, because of the Internet and social media, is no longer something that is just experienced in the workplace. For today’s young women and girls, it’s everywhere. What’s not helping is the continued tendency to blame the victim.
So who honestly wants to try and “lean in” in such an atmosphere? Probably a lot fewer than before; and if we don’t look at the whole system, from top to bottom, the gains made over the decades will disappear.
Posted: September 2013