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Phemale pharma: more women, more revenue?

This article was originally published in Scrip

Executive Summary

It is International Women's Day, or the International Day of Women. Or OMG-is-that-a-woman Day, as it is known in pharmaceutical company boardrooms around the globe.

In Scrip's survey of the gender balance in the boardrooms of the top 100 drug companies by revenue, XX genomes represent only 11% of total board members. Only one firm, Orion of Finland has a majority of women in its upper tier, and nearly half of the companies (still) have no female board members at all.

And all this is a little odd because in the pharma industry as a whole, women represent 35-50% of employees at all levels.

Scrip's most striking finding, however, is a dose-response correlation between women on boards and revenue. The more women there are, it seems, the higher the revenue. If this was a clinical trial result, acquisitive companies would be fawning over the asset (rather than appearing to ignore it, as they apparently do now).

X-chromosome dose response

Companies with no women on the board have the lowest sales, averaging just $2.74 billion in pharma sales, while companies who have over 20% female directors average pharma sales of $19.15 billion – over double the group employing 16-20% female directors (, 3 December 2012).

Scrip is aware (before you email in) that this phenomenon may not be entirely causal. It is possible that the women on the boards are not the cause of the revenue uplift, not directly at least.

It is possible that the companies with the larger revenues are those that apply their stronger sense of corporate social responsibility more effectively. It is plausible companies that are more in the public and market spotlight pay more attention to the gender agenda. And it is certainly conceivable that those companies with better human resources departments are driven not by a gender agenda but by a talent agenda: they may even recognize that restricting advancement for women is underusing 50% of your asset pool.

To be clear, we can prove no causal relationship between gender diversity and revenue. But companies should at least question the damage they could be doing to their bottom line.

Where are all the women?

The graphics above show the proportion of men and women on the top 100 companies boards (Scrip's data covers 92 companies out of the top 100 by revenue, for which board information was publicly available on the companies' corporate websites).

Only one company in the top 100 has more than 50% female representation on the board. No other company in the selection has equal representation of both men and women at board level and 37 companies have no female representation at all.

This pattern is largely repeated in Europe, where 12 out of 30 companies have no women at board level.

North America presents a slightly different picture, with lower overall levels of women (not one company hitting 40% female representation), but a wider spread throughout, with just four out of 25 companies with no women on the board, perhaps suggesting that in the US, the idea of gender balance is more pervasive.

Asia and the rest of the world perhaps unsurprisingly displays the scantiest female representation. No company employs more than 20% of women on their board, while an enormous 21 out of 37 have none at all.

With companies' AGMs looming, and board nominations in the offing, perhaps the time is right for pharma's selection committees to reassess the situation and reconsider their candidates?

If you have a view on pharma's gender gap or the reasons for it, we want your views. Contact, or tweet @ScripGemma.

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