To increase female representation, focus on board composition

We need to focus on board composition to increase representation of women in leadership roles, says Vilda co-founder.

One year ago, the Vilda network for women leaders in the life science sector was initiated in response to the slow progress to reach gender balance in top management and boards within the industry. Among its founders is Cecilia Bröms-Thell, Senior Business Developer at Uppsala Innovation Centre. The below is a short interview with her published in the 2024 Life Science Barometer.

We would never advocate for hiring a woman who does not meet the qualifications. Do not compromise on skills

Cecilia Bröms-Thell

What do you think about the results on gender balance?

– To enhance the representation of women in leadership roles, especially CEO positions, it is imperative to focus on board composition”, says Cecilia Bröms-Thell. She describes that the board, as the body that sets the course for the CEO, plays a pivotal role in shaping the company’s culture at all levels.

– I must emphasize that the life science industry has favorable conditions for achieving this goal, given the industry’s broadly balanced workforce.” Cecilia Bröms-Thell highlights that in Sweden today, most boards and company managements acknowledge the benefits of diversity. However, when recruiting for boards, many tend to lean towards experienced individuals within their existing networks.

– We would never advocate for hiring a woman who does not meet the qualifications. Do not compromise on skills”, asserts Cecilia Bröms-Thell.

– There are numerous highly qualified women out there, but it might require additional effort to broaden the candidate search to discover them. It must be a conscious decision, recognizing that the extra work is worthwhile.”

What level of gender balance should the industry aspire to reach?

– In start-up companies with minimal staffing, gender statistics may occasionally skew. The crucial aspect is to create awareness. What kind of company do you envision as you expand?” Cecilia Bröms-Thell explains.

– In Uppsala, we evaluate diversity when admitting companies into the incubator, not based on headcount, but we request a plan to foster diverse business management.

Diversity extends beyond gender, encompassing various aspects. Cecilia Bröms-Thell mentions studies indicating that gender-balanced boards and companies are also more diverse in other dimensions, contributing to overall diversity.

This interview was first published in the 2024 Life Science Barometer report.