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Genentech Narrowed Gender Gap in its Top Ranks

At Genentech in 2007, there were five times as many males as women in officer positions, and female directors (the level above officers) were leaving at twice the rate of their male colleagues. We rethought and altered our recruiting, professional development, and succession planning procedures to achieve equal representation of men and women in leadership positions and stop the flow of departing talent.

Thanks to those initiatives and a top-down commitment to change, men and women are nearly equally represented in our general employee pool and officer and director roles. The trip began in 2007 at a town hall meeting, where Art Levinson, then-CEO of Genentech, raised concerns about a lack of women in senior positions. According to a table he supplied, while the numbers of women and men among Genentech employees were about equal, 44 percent of managers/supervisors, 41 percent of directors, and only 16 percent of officers.

We created a target for the organization, inspired by Art’s observation and his determination that we do better: identify and remove impediments to women’s promotion to senior leadership positions, and increase the pool of women qualified for such situations by 50%. We made sincere, concerted, and persistent efforts in the years after that to guarantee that men and women are equally represented in Genentech total employee base and leadership roles.

The Healthcare Businesswomen’s Association has long been a supporter of Genentech (H.B.A.). The E.D.G.E. in Leadership Study, published by the charity in 2010, identified best practices for recruiting, developing, and keeping women in pharmaceutical and biotechnology organizations. Based on the findings of the H.B.A. study, we did our research to identify the roadblocks to women’s success at Genentech.

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