Knowledge Center

Women in Health Care & Bioscience Leadership State of the Knowledge Report: Bioscience, Academic Medicine, and Nursing

This technical report explores the status of women in leadership in bioscience, academic medicine, and nursing.

In its extensive review of women in academic science, the National Academy of Sciences concluded that observed gender differences in promotion and pay could not be attributed to gender differences in cognitive ability, family responsibilities, or even productivity. Rather, many barriers to advancement for women stemmed from stereotypes and institutional biases that disadvantaged women in academic science. Do women in industrial bioscience and healthcare organizations face similar barriers to advancement?

Impetus: Gender gaps in promotions, pay, and representation at top management levels have consequences beyond their effects on the careers and aspirations of individual women, whose aspirations may be dampened due to gender inequities in recognition and opportunities to succeed. To thrive, bioscience and healthcare companies must be agile enough to manage and support the creative R&D and clinical backbones of their organizations within a global context. Cultivating and utilizing women’s scientific and management talents are fundamental to organizational success.

Methodology: The study analyzes several large and nationally representative data sets, including the 2000 U.S. Census, 5 Percent Public-Use Micro-Sample, the National Science Foundation 1993 and 2003 Survey of Doctoral Recipients, and 2000 National Sample Survey of Registered Nurses.

Findings: The results show that women are underrepresented in bioscience and healthcare management in relation to the percentages of science and medical degrees they receive, and that they are less likely than men to be promoted to the top levels of executive and science management. When women are promoted into management, they earn substantially less than similarly qualified men—a phenomenon known as “sticky floors.” Furthermore, gender pay gaps increase as women advance into higher levels of management.