RSA issues major report on women on boards

Achieving boardroom gender balance is vital to building successful Life Sciences companies- but the industry must do more to make this a reality, according to a major new report published today by RSA, the leading global Life Sciences Executive Search and Interim Management specialist.

The Women on Boards: A Life Sciences’ Perspective survey found that 84% of leaders in the sector believe that balance and diversity is key to creating the ideal boardroom and three out of five executives agree that men and women should be equally represented. Over 60% see women as bringing unique skills to the boardroom, notably intuition (76%) and empathy (74%).

Around 12% of Life Sciences board members are currently female, and business leaders agree that the industry needs to work together to address this imbalance. Almost half of the 417 survey respondents highlighted more flexible working, proactive mentoring, greater transparency in recruiting and leadership endorsement as critical areas for improvement.

Nick Stephens, of RSA said: “It is vital to the overall success of Life Sciences companies that they are led by strong and well-qualified boards, made up of high calibre members with a mix of skills, perspectives and background. The industry recognises that increased female representation is a key element in remaining competitive. Women have the skills – now the industry needs to work to ensure that talented individuals have the opportunities they deserve within Life Sciences.”

The Women on Boards: A Life Sciences’ Perspective report found balance and diversity make for better boards with three out of five executives believing men and women should be equally represented and that diversity is the key to creating the ideal boardroom.

Some 60% of executives believe women bring different and much needed skills to the boardroom. Three quarters of respondents rated them higher than men for intuition and empathy.

The three largest barriers identified to greater female representation were the different work/life choices facing women, the dominant male culture of the boardroom and a lack of direct board representation for business functions that typically have a high proportion of qualified female executives.

Most of those surveyed would not support the introduction of quotas by the European Union or government. However a significant percentage are undecided on the subject- meaning that if substantial progress isn’t made they may switch to supporting quotas.

Almost half highlighted more flexible working, proactive mentoring, greater transparency in recruiting and leadership endorsement as areas where the Life Sciences industry could improve and help redress the board gender balance.

The report sets out three key areas for the industry to address. It says that although the majority in the Life Sciences industry don’t want to see quotas introduced, they recognise that a balanced board is a better one. Cultural change and more support for women is necessary if the threat of imposed quotas is to be tackled. The report also calls for the industry to listen more and deliver on coaching and leadership commitments rather than simply providing a solution from a male perspective. And it said Executive Search must work harder to find, nurture and promote female executive talent.

“The whole industry needs to act together to address the current gender imbalance,” says Dr Kay Wardle, Managing Director, RSA Executive Search, UK. “By working together we believe that we can ultimately achieve a better balance on boards, benefiting the entire Life Sciences industry by enabling it to access a wider range of skills, delivering competitive advantage for everyone.”

Stephens adds: “Now is the time for everyone involved to review their current procedures, identify barriers and work together to dismantle them to ensure that Life Sciences is a vibrant, competitive and successful industry built on talent, both currently and in the future.”

Women on Boards: A Life Sciences’ Perspective can be downloaded at

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