Top Priorities for Women When It Comes to Life Sciences Employers

Business Women

What attributes do you think are most important for an employer to have? Are you more interested in diversity or opportunities for promotion? BioSpace recently published the 2019 Ideal Employer Report, which helps to answer some of these questions for the life sciences community. The survey included feedback from over 2,700 life science professionals to determine what employees value in companies. Many different aspects were proposed to respondents, who rated how important that area was to them in a company. This data was analyzed and included in the comprehensive report.

Significant differences were noticed when it comes to generational priorities and the perceptions of employees and organizations. In addition, the Ideal Employer Report uncovered some variances between what women and men value in a company. We interviewed three women with thriving life sciences careers to dive deeper into what women prioritize in an employer!  Chelsea Weidman Burke, M.S., Kelly McCarthy, Ph.D., and Lauren Blair Woods, M.S. all provided more insight regarding what women want.

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According to the report, 61% of women rank “diversity in leadership roles” as important (a 15% point increase when compared to men). Is diversity in leadership important to you? Why or why not?

Chelsea Weidman Burke, M.S. - Diversity in leadership is definitely important to me. It not only inherently enhances the diversity in ideas due to different perspectives, but it also shows younger generations their potential by acting as role models. Seeing someone who looks like you do in a leadership role can have a profound impact on what a child thinks their potential is and what their idea of a typical person in a certain position looks like.

Kelly McCarthy, Ph.D. - Ideally, I would love to see diversity in leadership roles because it shows that your gender/race/etc is not going to deter you from advancing within that company if you are good at what you do. Additionally, when you have diversity in leadership roles, unique talents and perspectives can be brought to the table to help a company succeed. 

However, I can’t say I would not take a job if leadership lacked diversity. Although important to me, and certainly something I notice and am aware of, I would weigh other factors before leadership diversity (since it is so rare to find in an employer anyways). Additionally, reflecting upon the scientific positions I have held over the past 8 years, all of my mentors/managers have been men and I do not believe any of my experiences would have been different had these individuals been women. 

Lauren Blair Woods, M.S. - Diversity in leadership is very important to me. I think it is important for people of different backgrounds to comprise a management board so that decisions are made from a wide array of opinions and ideas. I also feel that employees like to see opportunities for themselves in higher roles so seeing representatives from their gender, culture, sexual orientation, and backgrounds in leadership roles can help with morale and drive as workers set career goals and development plans. As a woman in science, it can be difficult at times to find role models. Seeing the women in my company and other companies succeeding in their careers makes me feel like I can aspire to roles like theirs.

74% of women respondents ranked “a company culture that aligns with my values” as important (an 8% point increase when compared to men). Why do you think company culture is important to many women?

Chelsea Weidman Burke, M.S. - Company culture is extremely important to your enjoyment at work and your mental health. If the culture is oppressive and negative, that will directly affect your attitude and decrease your quality of life at work. However, if the environment is supportive, collaborative, and positive, you'll likely be much happier and more productive. I think company culture is especially important to women because we value a supportive environment and a healthy work-life balance.

Kelly McCarthy, Ph.D. - It appears that company culture is important to the majority of both women and men. I think culture that aligns with personal values ranks even higher for women because the way a company interacts and works together (beliefs and behaviors) may have a larger impact on them. Women are often held to a higher standard than their male counterparts and have the additional task of proving themselves against gender stereotypes. A cordial work environment is likely to embrace equality and respect, potentially alleviating the stereotype stresses that many women face. 

Lauren Blair Woods, M.S. - Workplace culture can really make or break a work environment and in turn can influence your mood and motivation to come in every day. I think people that have every day.  Minorities and women especially are more subject to certain toxic situations that can arise when culture isn’t a priority for a company. Having a company that aligns with your core values and cultural needs makes for happier employees.

Flexible working hours and flexible working location/remote work were more significant to women than men. Why do you think flexibility is so important to women?

Chelsea Weidman Burke, M.S. - Remote work and flexibility are becoming increasingly desirable and more common for everyone, especially women. As a remote part-time freelancer myself, I highly value the fact that I can do the job I want to and work remotely. I think remote work is more important to women because it greatly lessens the pull of work-life balance, especially when they have kids or are taking care of other loved ones. Working at home with flexible hours is extremely desirable for families with young children; you can have more quality time in the very important first few years of their lives and be there when they get home for school as they grow older. Being able to stay home AND work removes some of the pressure of choosing between family and career that many women still experience today.

Kelly McCarthy, Ph.D. - I can imagine flexibility is so important to women due to family responsibilities. Motherhood often results in more responsibilities, and therefore more career sacrifices, compared to fatherhood due to presumed gender roles and the biological requirement for childbearing. Having flexibility at work allows employees to achieve work-life balance, which can be particularly important for working mothers who do not want to compromise their career goals.

Lauren Blair Woods, M.S. - Many women have families and while we want to be strong career women, we also want to be there for our children. It allows us to be there for our families when they need us and then we’re able to pop back into work mode to catch up on projects after the kids are tucked in for the night. When companies can help accommodate these needs of women, women feel like they are valued and don’t have to choose between a career and a family.

Porschia Parker is a Certified Coach, Professional Resume Writer, and Founder of Fly High Coaching. (https://www.fly-highcoaching.com) She empowers ambitious professionals and motivated executives to add $10K on average to their salaries.

Chelsea Weidman Burke is a biochemist and freelance science writer who has written for BioSpace, Harvard University’s Science in the News, and Massive Science. After receiving her B.S. in biochemistry from the Rochester Institute of Technology, she continued on to receive her M.S. in chemical biology from Boston College. She currently works as a laboratory technician and clinical study coordinator at a medical school. Follow her on Twitter @ChemInquisitive to stay connected!

Kelly McCarthy is a Scientist in the Lead Discovery & Optimization group at FORMA Therapeutics. She received her Ph.D. in chemistry at Boston College in 2018 and her B.S. in biochemistry at Stonehill College in 2013. Kelly joined FORMA in September 2018 and has been pursuing her passion for early drug discovery in the encoded library technology space. 

Lauren Blair Woods is a chemist in the Biotech industry. After receiving her B.S. in chemistry and biology from the Emmanuel College, she continued on to receive her M.S. in chemical biology from Boston College. She currently works as a Senior Associate Scientist at a Cambridge based pharmaceutical company.

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