Time to treat pharma sector’s ailing gender quotient

TK KANCHANA | Updated on January 15, 2018

Source: WILL Gender Quotient Index (GQI) - "Leadership by Proxy" - Poonam Barua


With no leadership pipeline when it comes to women, the industry desperately needs to change tack for an inclusive recruitment

Much can no doubt be accomplished singly, but it takes two to Tango.

Now, you may think this is irrelevant as I talk about gender diversity. But what is often overlooked is that we need men to take the agenda forward and hence involving men in the gender diversity discussion is paramount.

I must admit here that I’ve often wondered if ratios make a difference to any man barring, of course, the HR (human resource) folks and the CEO (chief executive officer) on whose dashboard this measurable has a place.

But a look at the pharmaceutical sector reveals an ailing gender diversity quotient.

Compared to the rest of Corporate India, the pharma sector lags far behind in terms of the percentage of women it employs and the percentage of women in senior leadership positions. While the average percentage of women in the workforce in most sectors ranges from 15 per cent to 35 per cent, in the pharma sector, it is 10-15 per cent. A Mercer study puts it at 11 per cent. On the metric of women in senior leadership roles, the respective numbers are 10-25 per cent and 5-10 per cent.

The WILL Gender Quotient Index (GQI) for pharma companies, which measures the gender maturity of the sector, remains low. This implies that the pharma sector is still at the entry-level of building ecosystems for gender-inclusivity and women leadership. A Mercer study on Gender Diversity in Life-Sciences pegs it at 12 per cent.

Simply put, this means there is no leadership pipeline. All the hiring is happening at the entry level, which means it will take years for the pharma sector to have senior women leaders.

While the focus continues to remain on entry-level hiring and mid-level mentoring, the only way to build leadership strength is by hiring women at top, and even board, levels.

Apart from HR policies that need to be more inclusive, I suggest we ask ourselves hard questions: Are we taking the right measures to hire more women at all levels in our companies? More importantly, do we have the right attitude when it comes to gender diversity?

Most women will agree with me when I say that the most crucial hurdle in improving gender diversity at workplace is the attitude: That women cannot have it all, that they need to choose between home and a career while a man, by contrast, will be more focussed on the job.

As we all work through this glorious corporate mess that we have created by excluding half of the population from running businesses when it’s not been proven that making money is harder than running a home, the greater issue is we continue to work with half-truths. Gender diversity is as much for economic prosperity as for equal opportunity.

Women power is real

Hiring women at all levels will give an impetus to the double-digit trajectory of the industry’, it’s empirically proven that hiring women bolsters bottomlines.

As we pussy-foot around the issue, we must engage both men and women on policies and endeavours so that we fully liberate both genders, at work and at home to showcase their potential.

As we write the manual for gender diversity at workplace, we must recognise that it’s as much about the men at work as about stay-at-home dads. It allows for freedom to choose roles irrespective of biases, and our workplace policies must support that new wave of change.

After all it takes two to Tango!

The writer is Director General, Organisation of Pharmaceutical Producers of India (OPPI). Views expressed are personal.

Published on October 28, 2016

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