After last year’s BIO International Convention in Boston was overshadowed by reports of topless women dancers bearing the logos of biopharma company sponsors at an unofficial party, the Biotechnology Innovation Organization in October sent its members a letter insisting that they pay more than lip service to diversifying their historically male executive suites and boardrooms.

BIO demanded that member companies double their percentage of women holding senior management and leadership positions to 50% from 25%. The organization also directed those companies to increase their percentages of women on their boards of directors to 30% from roughly 10%.

In addition, BIO directed its members to avoid participating in parties like the unofficial Party at BIO Not Associated with BIO (PABNAB), where the topless dancing was alleged to have occurred. Members that refuse face penalties that include expulsion from BIO.

“We are determined to come together to embrace equality and inclusiveness, confront unconscious bias, and address sexist biases in all aspects of the biotechnology ecosystem—in the workplace, in our business operations, in the products we produce, and at all industry-affiliated activities and events,” according to BIO’s letter, signed by the organization’s CEO Jim Greenwood; BIO’s then-Chairman John Maraganore, PhD, the CEO of Alnylam Pharmaceuticals; and Halozyme president and CEO Helen Torley, then-chair of BIO’s committee on workforce development, diversity, and inclusion.

Biopharmas based in California won’t have a choice when it comes to diversifying their boards, whether or not they are members of BIO.

On September 30, 2018, then-Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law Senate Bill (SB) 826, a first-of-its-kind mandating that every publicly-traded company headquartered in California must include at least one woman on its board of directors.

As of December 31, 2021, the law requires that number to rise to at least two women directors for companies with five-member boards; and at least three women directors for companies with boards of six or more directors.

Following is this year’s ranking of top women executives at public biopharma companies by their total 2018 compensation, as disclosed in company proxy statements. Each executive is listed by name, title, company, 2018 and 2017 total compensation, and percent change between the two years. All non-U.S. currencies have been converted to U.S. dollars.

This year, seven women commanded compensation of $10 million or more, compared with just a single eight-figure executive the first time GEN ranked top-paid women biopharma executives back in 2013 (Laura J. Schumacher of AbbVie). The lowest-paid of the top-10 women this year made $7,703,334—nearly 44% above the $5,360,037 compensation of #10 ranked woman executive on last year’s A-List, and more than double the $3,450,103 earned by #10 on that 2013 A-List.

Just missing this year’s Top-10 A-List at No. 11 was GlaxoSmithKline CEO Emma Walmsley, whose total 2018 compensation was £5,887,000 ($7,470,004), up 20.6% from £4,883,000 ($6,196,030) in 2017.

The highest-compensated woman on this year’s A-List earned $22,998,522, which is about 34% above the $17,176,056 made by the top-ranked female executive in 2017 and recorded last year by GEN.

However, the top-paid woman executive last year earned 39% of the $58,608,484 in 2018 compensation racked up by the top-paid biopharma executive of any gender, Moderna CEO Stéphane Bancel—though it should be noted that nearly all of that amount (95%), or $55,935,768, reflected a pair of stock option awards. The larger option award, $48,119,256, was tied to Moderna’s record-setting $604 million initial public offering launched in December 2018, and was granted “to recognize Mr. Bancel’s continuing leadership of the company in its mission to create a new category of transformative medicines based on mRNA,” according to Moderna’s 2019 Proxy Statement, filed May 15.

10. Julie O’Neill

Former EVP of Global Operations

Alexion Pharmaceuticals

2018 Compensation: $7,703,334 1

2017 Compensation: $4,651,326 1

% Change: 65.6%

9. Katrine S. Bosley

Former President and CEO

Editas Medicine

2018 Compensation: $7,989,383 2

2017 Compensation: $6,091,500 2

% Change: 31.2%


8. Maria Fardis, PhD

President and CEO

Iovance Biotherapeutics

2018 Compensation: $9,394,600 3

2017 Compensation: $850,000

% Change: 1005.25%

7. Marion McCourt

Senior VP, Commercial

Regeneron Pharmaceuticals


2018 Compensation: $10,224,655 4

2017 Compensation: N/A 4

% Change: N/A

6. Laura J. Hamill

EVP Worldwide Commercial Operations

Gilead Sciences

2018 Compensation: $10,337,826 5

2017 Compensation: N/A 5

% Change: N/A

5. Sandra E. Peterson

Former EVP, Group Worldwide Chairman 6

Johnson & Johnson

2018 Compensation: $10,679,873 6

2017 Compensation: $17,176,056

% Change: -37.8%

4. Laura J. Schumacher

Vice Chairman, External Affairs,
and Chief Legal Officer 7


2018 Compensation: $11,383,159 7

2017 Compensation: $14,979,356

% Change: -24.0%

3. Heather Bresch



2018 Compensation: $13,332,368

2017 Compensation: $12,744,397

% Change: 4.6%

2. Martine Rothblatt, PhD, JD

Chairman and CEO

United Therapeutics

2018 Compensation: $16,036,300

2017 Compensation: $37,133,201 8

% Change: -56.8%

1. Alexandria Forbes, PhD

President and CEO

MeiraGTx Holdings

2018 Compensation: $22,998,522

2017 Compensation: $1,122,169 9

% Change: 2100%


1. Julie O’Neil was based in Ireland and was paid in Euro, prior to her termination of employment. Cash-based compensation paid to her in Euros was converted to U.S. dollars using the conversion rate of 1.145 and 1.2017 to one for 2018 and 2017, respectively.
2. Katrine Bosley resigned from her position as president and CEO, and from the company’s Board of Directors, effective March 1, 2019, for reasons not stated in a company announcement. The Board appointed a member, Cynthia (Cindy) Collins, as interim CEO.
3. Maria Fardis, PhD, received nearly all (88%) of her 2018 compensation in a single stock option award of $8,284,600.
4. Marion McCourt joined Regeneron Pharmaceuticals on February 12, 2018. From April 2017 until joining the company, she served as the principal operating of­ficer and COO and president of Axovant Sciences.
5. Laura J. Hamill began her employment with Gilead in August 2018.
6. Sandra E. Peterson retired on October 1, 2018, and forfeited all unvested stock awards, except for the awards granted in 2018, which were prorated. She also forfeited all unvested option awards except for the awards granted in 2018, which were prorated.
7. Laura J. Schumacher was appointed to her current position in 2018. Previously, she served as AbbVie’s executive vice president, external affairs, general counsel and corporate secretary.
8. 2017 compensation includes a spike in stock option compensation since 2017 was a transition year where United Therapeutics issued equity awards in March 2017 based on 2016 performance (based on the timing of the company’s historical program), as well as awards reflecting each named executive officer’s 2017 equity award opportunity.
9. Alexandria Forbes, PhD, was awarded a bonus of $1,078,000 in March 2018 in connection with MeiraGTx Holdings achieving a fundraising milestone, and $1,950,000 in a guaranteed and discretionary bonus attributable to performance in 2018, and recorded last year, though it was paid in early 2019.

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