When Elizabeth (Liz) Barrett was named CEO of Novartis Oncology, she became one of the few women in biopharma to currently hold such a leadership title. And while the number of women in leadership positions in the business world is on the rise, their numbers are still significantly lower than their male counterparts. For example, around the time of Barrett’s appointment (i.e., Feb. 2018), Life Science Leader compared executive leadership team gender composition between 10 of the largest publicly traded companies in the world, and 10 of the largest publicly traded biopharmas (see Table 1).
Table 1 –
Executive Leadership Team (ELT) Gender Composition:
A Comparison Of The 10 Biggest Biopharmas Vs. 10 Of The Largest Global Companies
*includes J.P. Morgan, Wells Fargo, Bank of America, Apple, AT&T, Citigroup, ExxonMobile, GE, Walmart, and Verizon.
^includes J&J, Pfizer, Novartis, Roche, Bayer, Merck, Sanofi, Gilead, AstraZeneca, and GSK.
As you can see, in this comparison, biopharma lags (albeit slightly) when it comes to executive leadership team gender diversity. And because it takes a relatively long time to earn these top spots, the reality is that most women leaders of today were (most likely) mentored by men. This is certainly true for Barrett. “But as I progressed in my career, I found more women executives at the companies where I worked taking an interest in me, even reaching out proactively,” she shares. “From this I learned a great lesson, which is these women felt a responsibility to foster and support me,” she contends. In turn, Barrett now does the same. “Whether it is men or women, I do believe it is part of my responsibility to give back and take a proactive approach when it comes to mentoring leaders of the future,” she states.