Biotech boards’ gender diversity moving forward


Gender diversity on biotech boards has increased, with a recent review of ASX-listed biotech companies revealing an average representation of 26 per cent for FY20. AusBiotech is encouraged that this is a step in the right direction as equality becomes a reality, however, more work is required if biotech boards are to meet the AICD goal of 30 per cent.

Wexford Hayes’ review of 83 ASX-listed biotech and healthcare companies noted that the overall average was impacted by lower representation in the smaller capitalised segment of the market. The report samples companies across a broad range of market capitalisation.

The AICD recommends all boards adopt a 30 per cent target and to regularly report on their progress towards it. As at 31 December 2020, overall representation of women on Australia’s top ASX-200 Boards, sat at 32.4 per cent. While two boards in the ASX-200 do not have any women, it is notable that 76 of the boards that are yet to reach the 30 per cent target are just one more woman shy of the target.

The Wexford Hayes’ review noted that biotech and healthcare companies with a market capitalisation of more than $1 billion had an average Board size of seven, with 32 per cent female Board members. Companies with a market cap of $100-$999 million had an average Board size of four members, of which 24 per cent female; thirty-three per cent had no female representation on their Board. Biotech companies with a market cap of less than $100 million also had an average Board size of four members however, only nine per cent female representation and 63 per cent of companies had no female representation at all.

This data is aligned to AusBiotech’s Sector Snapshot which show that, on average, women represent 50 per cent of the workforce across the entire sector; however women are under-represented in industry, representing only 32 per cent of the workforce. And this figure dwindles as seniority levels increases.

The Australian figures are above the 18 per cent of female board members indicated in BIO’s Measuring Diversity in the Biotech Industry: Building an Inclusive Workforce report, but AusBiotech encourages companies to continue their drive to achieve gender diversity, so that the industry can realise it full potential.

AusBiotech is committed to diversity and inclusion. In 2018, it launched its Diversity and Inclusion Statement; it follows these principles and encourages industry to follow too.

  1. AusBiotech believes that diversity in all aspects of business operations will optimise the continued growth and success of the life sciences industry;
  2. AusBiotech will champion diversity and inclusion as a way to attract, develop and retain the employee talent pool within the globally competitive industry;
  3. AusBiotech will lead by example and be outward-facing in its diversity efforts and will incorporate diversity and inclusion into all aspects of operations: in communications and membership engagement, at events through programming and education, and in the composition of the Board of Directors and its committees; and
  4. AusBiotech will engage with external partners to broaden the reach and incorporation of diversity throughout the biotechnology ecosystem.