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Leveraging the Talent of Women in Life Sciences and Health Care

Women in technology fields historically have been underrepresented, and this is no less so for women in the life sciences, health care, and biotech industries.

By Nan S. Langowitz

In 2008–09, women earned nearly 40% of the biomedical and medical engineering degrees in the United States, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.1 Not quite half, but certainly much improved from bygone days. Similarly, the percentage of women attending medical school is now nearly equal to that of men. It can no longer be argued that women lack the technical and scientific expertise required to be active players in the health care and life sciences arenas. But, how do they fare in the workplace? Matching the pattern in many industries, we find that women comprise roughly half of the employee base but are visible in far lower numbers in managerial roles. According to the 2007 Healthcare Businesswomen’s Association E.D.G.E. in Leadership study conducted by Booz Allen Hamilton, 34% of midlevel life sciences company managers and just 17% of senior executives are women.2 This study recommended that companies need to do more to attract and retain talented women, including taking a merit-based approach to career advancement and compensation as well as using metrics to track progress on talent retention of women.

This article looks at what companies can do to reduce bias and maximize talent.

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Nan Langowitz

About the Author

Nan Langowitz is Professor of Management and Entrepreneurship at Babson College and served as the Founding Director of Babson’s Center for Women’s Entrepreneurial Leadership, the first comprehensive center dedicated to advancing women in business and entrepreneurship at a leading school of management. Her research is focused on entrepreneurial leadership, focusing especially on women, as well as the challenges and opportunities organizations and managers face developing and leveraging talent. In the classroom, Professor Langowitz teaches leadership, professional development and managing diversity through courses in Babson’s MBA program as well as at Babson Executive Education. She was awarded the Dean’s Teaching Award for the Graduate Program in 2009 and the Babson College Alumni Distinguished Faculty Leadership Award in 2010.

  1. National Center for Education Statistics Homepage, last modified on September 17, 2012,
  2. “HBA E.D.G.E. in Leadership Study,” Healthcare Businesswomen’s Association, accessed September 17, 2012,


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