Michelle McMurry-Heath, MD, PhD, the new president and CEO of the Biotechnology Innovation Organization (BIO), has made it clear that she aims to advance diversity within the industry in ways that go beyond symbolism as the first woman, and first African-American, to hold her current position.

“We have to do everything we can to make sure that we are being as inclusive as possible, that we are breaking down barriers and silos, that we are making every space of science and biotechnology open and welcoming to a diverse set of minds,” McMurry-Heath told The Hill in an interview published June 4. “It’s only in that diversity that we get all of the brainpower and perspectives that we need to solve the major issues that we face. So that’s critical. BIO is committed to that.”

BIO appointed McMurry-Heath to succeed Jim Greenwood, a former six-term U.S. representative from Pennsylvania. McMurry-Heath’s appointment may be the most significant of several actions that BIO has taken to make amends for an embarrassing incident that occurred during the 2018 BIO International Convention in Boston. All the good news from this event was overshadowed by allegations that a PABNAB (Party At BIO Not Associated with BIO) featured topless women dancers on whom body-painted logos of the party’s sponsors were displayed.

In addition to directing its members to avoid participating in objectionable PABNABs, BIO demanded that in member companies, the percentage of women holding senior management and leadership positions should double, from 25% to 50%.

In January, BIO partnered with the Center for Talent Innovation (CTI), a nonprofit think tank committed to diversity and inclusion (D&I), to use data from 98 of 107 surveyed companies to inform a report entitled, “Measuring Diversity in the Biotech Industry: Building an Inclusive Workforce.” This report, which BIO indicated would be the first in a series of annual reports, found that on average, women accounted for 45% of overall biotech workforces, 30% of executives, 18% of board members, and 16% of CEOs.

“D&I is a business priority, not simply a ‘nice-to-have’ add-on,” the report asserted. “Organizations of all sizes can positively impact D&I when it is pursued with genuine intention, effort, communication, and investment.”

Also, the survey indicated that responding organizations reported an average of 32% “people of color” at the organizational level (Black, Latinx, Asian, Native American/Alaskan Native, Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander, and two-plus races), while 15% of executives, 14% of board members, and 12% of CEOs were people of color.

With the nation embroiled at deadline in a national conversation about how to foster justice and economic opportunity for African Americans—how individuals, institutions, and businesses can best ensure that “Black Lives Matter”—it is worth noting that none of those people of color, or any others within the industry, were paid enough to appear on GEN’s updated edition of its annual list of the most highly compensated women executives at public biopharma companies.

The current list is based on the executives’ total 2019 compensation, as disclosed in company proxy statements. Each executive is listed by name, title, company, 2019 and 2018 total compensation, and percentage change between the two years. All non-U.S. currencies have been converted to U.S. dollars.

This year, six women commanded compensation of $10 million or more, whereas seven women did so last year. (Back in 2013, in GEN’s first list of top-paid women biopharma executives, there was just one eight-figure woman executive, Laura J. Schumacher of AbbVie.) The 10th-best compensated woman on this year’s list made $7,703,334—nearly 44% above the $5,360,037 made by the 10th-best compensated woman on last year’s list, and more than double the $3,450,103 earned by 10th-best compensated woman on the 2013 list.

The number-one executive on this year’s “Top 10 Earners among Women Biopharma Execs” list received about twice as much in compensation as last year’s top-ranked executive—and for a change, made more than what the top male biopharma CEO received last year.

Just missing this year’s Top 10, coming in 11th, was Sandra Leung, executive vice president and general counsel, Bristol-Myers Squibb, whose total 2019 compensation was $7,516,457, up 20.4% from $6,243,183 in 2018.

The highest-compensated woman on this year’s list earned more than $45.6 million last year, which is nearly double the just-under-$23 million made by the most highly compensated female executive in 2019’s list. Interestingly, for this executive, Alexandria Forbes, PhD, total compensation fell 63% since last year, but she still ranks among this year’s Top 10.

op 10 Earners among Women Biopharma Executives 5-10


1. Nearly all of the 2019 compensation for Martine Rothblatt, PhD, JD, consisted of $40.01 million in stock options, up from $12,796,803 in 2018.
2. Jacqualyn A. Fouse, PhD, was a member of Agios’ board when she was appointed CEO effective February 1, 2019. Prior to joining Agios’ board in December 2017, she served as president and chief operating officer of Celgene Corporation, a global biopharmaceutical company, until April 2017, and as a member of its board through June 2017.
3. Cynthia Collins was appointed president and CEO in August 2019, seven months after she was named Interim CEO from the company’s board, succeeding Katrine Bosley. Before joining Editas, Collins served as the CEO of privately held Human Longevity.
4. Emily M. Leproust, PhD, received nearly all of her 2019 compensation (88%) through the combination of $3,045,398 in restricted stock units (RSUs) and $4,144,965 in option awards in 2019. She received no RSUs or option awards the previous year.
5. Johanna Mercier was appointed to her current position effective July 1, 2019. She joined Gilead from Bristol-Myers Squibb, where she served as president and head of the company’s Large Markets Division, which includes the United States, France, Germany, and Japan.

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