Female Firsts Only Go So Far in Bioscience

September 15, 2011In this guest-post, Catalyst’s Anika K. Warren, Senior Director, Research, discusses her latest report, Checking the Pulse of Women in Bioscience: What Organizations Need to Know. As Anika makes clear, the lack of women in leadership in this vital industry can have far-reaching implications. —Ilene H. Lang


It’s amazing to think that 2011 marks the 100-year anniversary of Marie Curie winning her second Nobel Prize. While she represents both the first woman to win a Nobel Prize and the only person to earn Nobel Prizes in multiple sciences, stereotypes about women’s aptitude in science and math persist. So much for female firsts!

As I think about my experiences leading Catalyst’s latest research report on women in bioscience, Curie’s theory of radioactivity comes to mind. Admittedly, I’m a social scientist with a background in finance, so the instabilities of atoms aren’t my specialty. Yet, over the past two years, I’ve become increasingly familiar with the effects of market instability on the bioscience industry.

In this study, Catalyst research demonstrates how the interactive nature and unique complexities of bioscience influence the need for industry-wide diversity and inclusion efforts. The reality that higher rates of women are graduating with advanced degrees in science and medicine and make most household health care decisions, added to the fact that bioscience impacts everyone’s life, should signal that maintaining male-dominated senior leadership teams is not the most effective way for bioscience companies to maintain a competitive advantage, foster innovation, maximize talent, and in effect, save lives.

My interviews with experts in healthcare, pharmaceuticals, and academic medicine revealed that women are vital to the future of bioscience. However, women in most science sectors are paid less and receive fewer advancement opportunities than similarly qualified men, despite their determination to achieve individual and organizational success. Given the aforementioned realities, companies are struggling to prevent top female talent from jumping to competitors to advance their careers – have they become like the atoms losing energy that Curie studied in her research on radioactivity?

One thing is certain: critical information isn’t trickling down the pipeline and, as a result, most women aren’t informed about important career opportunities at their current companies. Moreover, data indicates that the lack of communication between senior executives, managers, and direct reports remains a major advancement barrier for women, challenging gender equity and placing hierarchical organizations at risk of losing key talent.

In our latest bioscience report, we share emergent industry trends and proven strategies to aid organizations in getting the most out of their talent. The report offers innovative solutions for increasing capacity, building effective relationships, establishing sponsorship and coaching opportunities, and holding managers and senior leaders accountable for gender diversity and workplace inclusion.

Overall, I’m encouraged by the success of the experts, practices, and organizations showcased in this report, and I look forward to the day when gender stereotypes and pay inequities are eradicated. It’s time to make changes in science sectors. It’s time to save more lives.


Anika K. Warren, Ph.D., leads and supports research projects focused on organizational change and effectiveness, women of color, and women in leadership. Prior to joining Catalyst, Dr. Warren was an Assistant Professor at Teachers College of Columbia University, where she continued to teach until September 2010. She consults to professional service firms, bioscience corporations, and telecommunication companies, provides career coaching, and publishes research articles and book chapters on issues related to diversity and inclusion, organizational change and effectiveness, and counseling psychology. She has served as an educator, consultant, and counselor to numerous Fortune 500 and multinational companies, universities, non-profit organizations, government agencies, and community health organizations. Dr. Warren also develops training videos catering to the unique needs of multicultural clients and their individual and organizational challenges. Prior to graduate school, Dr. Warren worked in finance at Gap Inc. and The Charles Schwab Corporation and was involved in recruitment and career development efforts at both corporations. She received her B.B.A. in Finance from Howard University and earned her M.A. and M.Ed. in Psychological Counseling at Columbia University, focusing on organizational, multicultural, and school psychology. She completed her Ph.D. in Counseling Psychology at Boston College.

The views expressed herein are solely those of the guest blogger and do not necessarily reflect those of Catalyst. Catalyst does not endorse any political candidates. The post and the comments are presented only for the purpose of informing the public.