Like Dimension Therapeutics, More Than Half of Yumanity's Employees are Women

Like Dimension Therapeutics, More Than Half of Yumanity's Employees are Women

February 12, 2016
By Alex Keown, Breaking News Staff

BOSTON – Diversity has been a popular buzzword over the past few years, but it’s a concept that Cambridge, Mass.-based biotech Yumanity has embraced wholeheartedly—more than half of the company’s workforce is made up of women, the Boston Business Journal reported this morning.

Tony Coles, co-founder of Yumanity, told the Journal that having a majority female workforce is “setting a foundation for diversity in the company that I think is important.” Yumanity, focused on the development of drugs for the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s and ALS, was founded in 2014 by Coles, who is best known for founding Onyx Pharmaceuticals, which he sold to Amgen for $10.4 billion. The company’s hiring of women will continue in part due to a $45 million financing round the company announced earlier this week. The Journal said the infusion of cash will allow the company to hire an additional 10 people as it continues to drive its drugs to clinical trials.

The reason Coles sought to have a female-dominant workforce hearkens back to a lesson he said he learned at Onyx, as well as his time as a senior executive at Vertex Pharmaceuticals . The best way to find solutions to issues being addressed was “to have different points of view at the table,” Coles told the Journal.

Yumanity’s diversity formula comes at a time when women occupy only 20 of 112 senior management roles at the 10 highest-valued companies in the pharma and biotech industry. In startups, like Yumanity and Dimension Therapeutics, the numbers are better, but not by much. Of the top 10 biotech startups that raised the most money in 2014, only 19 percent of top executives were female and only 8 percent of board members were female, Bloomberg reported.

The issue of few women executives recently came to a head during the J.P. Morgan Healthcare conference in January during an after-party hosted by LifeSci Partners LLC, which featured a number of models hired to circulate among the majority-male guests. The women were reportedly wearing short and tight outfits, which offended a number of female executives who attended the conference. After a backlash from a number of biotech executives, LifeSci has since apologized for hiring the models and announced it will undertake a series of initiatives to address “systemic issues” that include the “lack of women in management and leadership positions, the lack of mentors and professional development networks for women that are necessary to cultivate future leaders in our industry and the underrepresentation of girls in STEM programs.”

This week a cocktail party at the Source Capital Conference in New York also raised the hackles of some female executives due to its venue. The party was held Feb. 11 at a Hooters in Times Square. The restaurant chain may be more known for the tight outfits its waitresses wear, rather than its chicken wings. One female executive who reached out to BioSpace called it a “pathetic take on what an executive networking event should look like.”

“Definitely one of the networking events I will NOT be attending,” the executive told BioSpace on condition of anonymity.

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