Growing number of women in R&D at biotech companies

  • Women make up 58% of all R&D staff, but hold only 24.4% of executive positions in the biotech sector
Madrid, España

The Spanish Bioindustry Association (AseBio) is taking advantage of International Women’s Day to announce new figures on the presence of female scientists and entrepreneurs in the Spanish biotechnology sector. The number of women working in R&D at biotech companies has increased 0.75%. The 5,426 female professionals make up 58% of all R&D staff. 

The significant presence of women in the biotechnology sector is also reflected in the number of female researchers, which held steady at 3,016 or 56% of all R&D personnel. “Our sector has a huge capacity for transformation and that is possible thanks to the key role women play in biotechnology, and this has a knock-on effect on society, improving our lives and our planet,” says AseBio Chairwoman Ana Polanco. 

Plus, according to FECYT analyses of women’s presence in Spanish scientific production, between 2014 and 2018, 2,932 biotechnology publications had at least one female author and 11.61% of these publications are excellent, ranked 7th among the 20 knowledge areas analysed.

But there is still a long way to go. Even though biotechnology is an example of equality in the early stages of a scientific career and education (60% of biotechnology students are women), women hold only 24.4% of executive positions. This figure, however, is still well above the average for IBEX-35 companies. “Promoting diversity and taking advantage of the talent we have in science and innovation will allow us to move towards an economy with the foundations we need to be better prepared to tackle future challenges,” adds Polanco.

Joint initiative to raise awareness of women’s role in science: from lab to business

Since 11 February, International Day of Women and Girls in Science, AseBio, with the CSIC National Museum of Natural Sciences (MNCN-CSIC), SEBBM Women and Science group and Aseica, has been organising talks on science and entrepreneurship. In these sessions, over 20 women have shared their vision of science and discussed the professional opportunities available in these disciplines. These contemporary female role models in Spanish science shared their career paths, challenges and successes with students aged 8 to 18, hoping to inspire the new generation to become our scientists of tomorrow. 

“At MNCN we are always working to increase visibility of women who do research,” explains MNCN Deputy Director of Communication and Scientific Culture Pilar López García-Gallo. “These talks have been particularly rewarding for both the audiences and the speakers, so we hope to repeat the format and continue providing role models for young students,” she continues.

“It’s important for girls and boys to see young and more senior women leading research groups and in executive positions. The gender gap in science starts opening as a career in science advances. We lose over 25% of female talent and this is something we have to change, working together,” agreed María Mayán and Guadalupe Sabio, coordinators of the SEBBM Women and Science group. 

A total of 21 important women from the science and business areas participated in these talks: María Monsalve (UAM), Isabel Pardo Mendoza (CIB-Margarita Salas, CSIC), Susana Sánchez (AseBio/MOA foodtech), Aurora Gómez-Durán (CIB-Margarita Salas, CSIC), Marisol Soengas (CNIO), Marisol Quintero (AseBio/Highlight Therapeutics), Vanesa Martínez Fernández (MNCN), Annie Machordom (MNCN), Carmen Vela (AseBio/Ingenasa), Marie Destarac (CSIC), Laura Soucek (VHIO), Clara Campás (AseBio/Asabys), Guadalupe Sabio (CNIC), María Mayán (INIBIC, CHUAC-SERGAS), Rosario Cerrato (AseBio/Ingulados), Pilar Martin (CNIC), Mercedes Ricote (CNIC), Ana Polanco (AseBio Chairwoman/Merck), Sara García Linares (UCM), Isabel Varela-Nieto (CSIC/CIBERER/SEBBM) and Elena Sánchez-Viñes (AseBio/Amadix).

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Agathe Cortes

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Who we are 

AseBio brings together more than 290 entities and represents the Spanish biotechnology sector as a whole. Its mission is to lead the transformation of the country, positioning science, innovation and especially biotechnology as an engine of economic growth and social welfare. Its members include companies, associations, foundations, universities, technology and research centres that carry out their activities directly or indirectly related to biotechnology in Spain.