Women In Bio Boardroom Ready Program

Women In Bio Prepare for Next Boardroom Ready Class

Improving diversity on the boards of directors of life sciences has become increasingly important across the industry, and organizations like Women In Bio are shouldering efforts to increase the representation of women.

Women In Bio is accepting applications for its Sixth Boardroom Ready Program, a classroom opportunity that provides training for female biopharma executives vying for a spot on a board of directors in the industry. Each 20-member class’s training opportunities include duties that board members typically deal with, such as fiduciary responsibility, corporate governance, investor relations, legal liability, corporate strategy, and risk management.

Over the past several years, the Boardroom Ready Program has made a name for itself as a solid training ground for boardroom candidates, particularly as life sciences companies aim to increase their boards’ diversity. Carolyn Brougham, an Executive Women In Bio Consultant, said the program’s continued success has led to people regularly coming to her looking for a qualified female candidate who would be a good fit for their board of directors.

Female representation has been lacking on the board of directors across the life sciences industry, but that’s changing due to programs like the Boardroom Ready Program. Despite holding 20% of corporate leadership roles, women hold just 16.9% of board roles globally, according to data provided by Women In Bio. That is changing, due in part to programs like Boardroom Ready.

Since it launched, 101 women have graduated from the program, including Abigail Jenkins, Senior Vice President and Business Unit Head of Vaccines at Maryland-based Emergent BioSolutions, who was part of the 2020 class. More telling than the number of graduates is the fact that since the program began, 66 board placements have been made. Brougham expressed hopes the program could notch 100 board appointments by the end of 2022.

“We’ve had a lot of success, but there is still a long way to go,” Brougham said. While the program is women-centric, Brougham added the organization wants to make sure that underrepresented women of different racial and ethnic backgrounds and sexual orientations are “brought along to be brought onto boards.”

“Over the past six years, we have become the go-to in the life sciences industry for people looking to increase the number of women on their boards,” Brougham said.

She added that many of the women who have already gone through the program are now serving as mentors to other women in the industry. Calling it a “sisterhood for executive women,” Brougham said many of the graduates are now earning their peers to participate in the program. “It’s a growing community of supporters,” she said.

Applications for the next round of Boardroom Ready female executives are due March 15. While there is no magic formula for securing a spot in the program, candidates for the program are typically at the c-suite level. They have significant experience in their fields that will be attractive to boards seeking new members.

Brougham said the Boardroom Ready Program selection team makes sure they are inviting well-rounded executives to participate because boards are “looking for different experiences” from their members. Applicants will be notified by July 1 regarding whether they have been accepted into the program.  

Women In Bio was first established in 2002 to help women entrepreneurs and executives in the Capital Region that includes the Baltimore area, Washington, D.C., and northern Virginia build successful bioscience-related businesses. Women In Bio is open to women at all stages of their career and those women who are considering a career in the life sciences.

“Women In Bio spans the arc of a woman’s career, from women interested in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math), to college, to those holding their first job, all the way to the boardroom,” Brougham said.

Over the past three years, Women In Bio has seen a 250% increase in membership, Senior Program Manager Tamara Kilgore said. The organization’s primary focus is to provide women-to-women mentorship and leadership support through career development stages. The bulk of that support is conducted in chapters set up across the country. Women In Bio currently has 13 chapters across the country, including one in the BioHealth Capital Region and one in Philadelphia.

“We want to make sure that all women are represented and carry that through each program Women In Bio offers,” Kilgore said. She added the organization has a goal to improve efforts to “ensure a more diverse membership.”

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Alex Keown is a freelance journalist who writes about a variety of subjects including the pharma, biotech, and life science industries. Prior to freelancing, Alex has served as a staff writer and editor for several publications.