Months After Infamous 'Sexist' Biotech Party, 20 Women Join New Exec Training

Months After Infamous 'Sexist' Biotech Party, 20 Women Join New Exec Training August 24, 2016
By Alex Keown, Breaking News Staff

BOSTON – The new Women in Bio Boardroom Ready program has tapped 20 women for its inaugural class. The program is an intense five-day project to prepare more women to join corporate boards of directors.

The project, which will kick off at George Washington University in Washington, D.C., was announced in June. More than 70 female executives applied to participate in the program and the first 20 class-members were selected following an in-depth review of the applications, Women in Bio announced this morning in a statement.

The newly selected 2016 class participants include:
  • Alison Arter, President, Apted, Baer & Clark
  • Alpna Seth, Senior Vice President, Global Head Biosimilars Business Unit, Biogen
  • Cindy Jacobs, Executive Vice President and Chief Medical Officer, OncoGenex Pharmaceuticals Inc.
  • Cynthia Smith, Chief Commercial Officer, ZS Pharma, Inc.
  • Eliana Clark, Vice President, Global Manufacturing Sciences, Biogen
  • Ethel Rubin, Entrepreneur in Residence, BioHealth Innovation, Inc.
  • Faith Charles, Partner, Corporate Transactions and Securities for Thompson Hine LLP
  • Heidi Higginson, Vice President, Global Pricing & Reimbursement Strategy, Biogen
  • Jennifer Carver, Senior Vice President, Operations for La Jolla Pharmaceutical Company
  • Johanna Friedl-Naderer, Senior Vice President Head of Europe & Canada, Biogen
  • Jzaneen Lalani, Chief Operating Officer, Curemark LLC
  • Kate Haviland, Chief Business Officer, Blueprint Medicines
  • Marianne De Backer, Vice President, Johnson & Johnson Innovation, Janssen Business Development
  • Mary Thistle, Chief Business Officer, Dimension Therapeutics
  • Sharon Ayd, Chief Science Officer and Senior Vice President, Pharmaceuticals for Regulatory Compliance Associates
  • Sofija Jovic, Chief Executive Officer, ProPhase LLC
  • Stacy Lindborg, Vice President, Biometrics, Biogen
  • Susan Dillon, Global Therapeutic Area Head, Immunology, Janssen Pharmaceuticals (Johnson & Johnson)
  • Tara Nickerson, Chief Business Officer, Prothena Biosciences
  • Terri Matkovits, Senior Vice President, Drug Development, ContraVir Pharmaceuticals

Over the course of the five days, the 20 students will gain an understanding of how boards work and what the duties of board members are and what kinds of responsibilities members have. Course topics include fiduciary responsibility, corporate governance, investor relations, legal liability, corporate strategy and risk management. But the education does not cease with the earning of the course certificate at the end of five days. The students will be paired with a seasoned board coach and will participate in networking events designed to facilitate board appointments, Women in Bio said.

Women occupy only 20 of 112 senior management roles at the 10 highest-valued companies in the pharma and biotech industry, Bloomberg reported earlier this year. In startups 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 new program was developed in partnership with LifeSci Advisors, a company that was highly criticized earlier this year for hosting an industry event in San Francisco that featured scantily clad models. In April, LifeSci Advisors announced the partnership with Women in Bio and Girls Inc. of New York City to provide mentorship and advancement programs for women and girls in the STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) fields.

The announcement was a response to criticism the company garnered about the women it hired to provide balance to the number of men attending a party during the J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference in January. The event raised the hackles of many female executives and sparked a letter condemning the practice of hiring models for the party. In February, an open letter signed by more than 230 industry leaders equated the hiring of models for the party as believing women were nothing more than “chattel.”

LifeSci apologized for the incident, calling the hiring of the models a “serious mistake” and pledged to 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.”

And LifeSci Advisors has certainly worked hard to turn its image around and the 20 candidates for the first Boardroom Ready program is impressive, including multiple executives from companies such as Biogen , Johnson & Johnson , Baer & Clark, Dimension Therapeutics , Curemark and more.

“We could not be more impressed by the extensive knowledge base and depth of experience exhibited by the inaugural class of participants in the Boardroom Ready program,” Michael Rice, founding partner of LifeSci Advisors, said in a statement. “LifeSci is incredibly proud to be sponsoring this program, and we look forward to helping the Boardroom Ready class participants make meaningful connections, with the goal of getting placed on corporate boards.”

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