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Prioritizing Gender Equity 2015

BOLD/WIB/Liftstream Event: June 11th 2015 - South SF

Prioritizing Gender Equity:  What does it take to reach and succeed at the “C” and Board level? 

This was a partnered event, co-designed by Liftstream, WomenInBio and growBOLD.

Date:   Thursday, June 11th, 2015 

 Time:   5:30 – 9:00 pm  

Location:  Genentech, 1531 Grandview Drive, South San Francisco, CA 94080 (Building 31, room 1B)

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Data shows that women and men in the life sciences are equally ambitious when it comes to gaining a seat at the executive or board table – and there are a large number of highly qualified and skilled women actively seeking leadership positions…

So why do over 50% of all biotech companies in the US have exclusively male boards? 

Considering that companies across all industries with a diverse gender board outperform those with all-male boards – and diverse boards offer better growth, higher returns (on average) on equity with less volatility – why is this not a higher priority and business opportunity for boards in the life science industry?

The Diversifying the Outlook report released in October of 2014 by Liftstream, a global life sciences executive search and leadership advisory firm revealed that opportunities for women to move into leadership positions are not materializing as frequently as they are for men: C-suite women are much less likely to be contacted for a potential board position than C-suite men, and there are a number of contributable factors.

Stefan Oschmann, CEO of Merck, Pharma, shared:  “Women are presently a ‘minority’ in leadership but a majority in the highly skilled workforce entering biopharma, and as such, are a major component of underdeveloped potential. Today, the industry underutilizes the wealth of knowledge, experience and leadership offered by women”.

So how can senior management and corporate boards develop more opportunities to advance into executive and board level positions?  

And how can aspiring women be more effective at reaching and succeeding on Life Science Boards and Executive Teams?

Women in Bio, Liftstream and growBOLD partnered to explore this topic in a facilitated panel discussion.  Results from Liftstream’s research set the stage, and veteran life science executives and board members shared their experience and lessons learned.

Participants who participated:

  • Heard the latest research on gender diversity at the Board and Executive level within the life sciences
  • Listened to industry leaders within large and small companies share their lessons learned from their experience on Executive teams and Boards
  • Better understood the gender diversity issues and landscape within the life sciences
  • Learned practical steps to move toward more inclusion for companies at all levels of maturity


  • 5:30 pm – Appetizers and networking
  • 6:00 pm – BOLD/WIB introduction - (Program begins promptly at 6pm!)
  • 6:10 pm – Presentation 
  • 6:30pm – Moderated panel discussion
  • 7:45 pm – Q&A
  • 8:15 pm – Close and networking

Heather Erickson is president and chief executive officer of the Life Sciences Foundation, which she joined in 2012 as the organization’s first full-time executive. Prior to joining LSF, she served as founding president of MedTech Association, the industry trade association for Upstate New York’s bioscience and medical technology industry, and as senior consultant at Edgar, Dunn & Company, an international strategy consulting firm. She has also worked with the genomics research group at Chiron Corporation and researched synthetic protein function in the Pathology Department at Yale Medical School.   Heather has been active in numerous business and civic organizations, having served on many boards and committees including as a board member for the Central New York Biotechnology Research Center and the American Heart Association’s Syracuse Division. She is also past co-chair of the State Medical Technology Alliance and was appointed to the New York State Governor's Regional Economic Development Council.  Heather received a bachelor of science degree in Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology from Yale University.


Laura Brege, President and CEO, Nodality, Inc.

Laura Brege is President and Chief Executive Officer of Nodality, Inc., a life sciences company focused on solving drug development challenges.   Ms. Brege has over 25 years of executive management experience in the pharmaceutical, biotechnology and venture capital industries.  Ms. Brege was Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer at Onyx Pharmaceuticals, Inc.  Prior to Onyx, Ms. Brege was a General Partner at Red Rock Capital Management, a venture capital firm in Palo Alto specializing in early stage financing.  She previously served as SVP and CFO at COR Therapeutics and CFO of Flextronics, Inc. Ms. Brege serves on the Board of Directors of several public companies in the biotechnology industry.  Ms. Brege holds a B.A. from Ohio University and an M.B.A. from the University of Chicago.   

Mark A. Goldsmith, M.D., Ph.D., President and CEO, REVOLUTION Medicines, Partner, Third Rock Ventures

Mark Goldsmith has committed his entire career to medical science. Dr. Goldsmith joined Third Rock Ventures in 2012, where he contributes to the ideation, development and leadership of innovative companies. He is the founding president, CEO and board director of REVOLUTION Medicines, board chairman of Constellation Pharmaceuticals, Inc. and Nurix, Inc, and board director for Igenica Biopharmaceuticals. Before joining Third Rock Ventures Dr. Goldsmith was president and chief executive officer of Constellation Pharmaceuticals, where he led the company to a preeminent position in the field of epigenetics and to development of a class-leading strategic relationship with Genentech/Roche. Prior to his appointment at Constellation in 2009, he was senior executive-in-residence at Prospect Venture Partners, a leading life science investment firm, after serving as chairman and CEO of Cogentus Pharmaceuticals. Previously he was senior vice president, responsible for the health care division of Genencor International, an independent and publically listed company prior to its acquisition by Danisco. Before entering the private sector, Dr. Goldsmith led a productive biomedical research laboratory at the Gladstone Institute of Virology and Immunology, and he has co-authored 85 peer-reviewed scientific publications and is co-inventor on multiple patents. He practiced medicine on the faculty of the University of California at San Francisco (UCSF) School of Medicine and at San Francisco General Hospital, and served as a consultant to and collaborator of leading pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies. Dr. Goldsmith received his B.A. degree from Princeton University, earned his M.D. and Ph.D. in microbiology and immunology from UCSF, and conducted postgraduate medical training at Harvard Medical School and UCSF.

Wende Hutton, General Partner, Seasoned Strategist, Canaan Partners

Healthcare investor Wende Hutton brings 20 years of experience to identifying, investing in and building companies that are changing the practice of medicine. She has facilitated bringing over a dozen medical devices and drugs to market, and currently sits on the boards of Aldea Pharmaceuticals, Butterfly Health, Chrono Therapeutics, Dermira, Glooko, ReVision Optics, Theraclone Sciences and Transcend Medical. Prior investments include BiPar Sciences (acquired by Sanofi-aventis), Chimerix (CMRX), and Labrys Biologics (acquired by Teva Pharmaceutical).  Wende joined Canaan in 2004, and her life sciences track record includes seven IPOs and five acquisitions. She began her venture career at Mayfield Fund in 1993, where she worked closely with the founding teams of Heartstream (HPQ) and Northstar Neuroscience (NSTR). Earlier in her career, Wende held senior operational management positions at GenPharm International and Nellcor in business development and marketing.  Wende holds an AB in human biology from Stanford University and an MBA from Harvard Business School, where she was a Baker Scholar. She is active with several community service groups including serving on the board of FACE AIDS.

Kim Popovits, CEO and Chairman of the Board, Genomic Health

Committed to changing the paradigm of cancer care, Kim Popovits has served as Chairman of the Board since 2012, Chief Executive Officer and President since 2009 and as President and Chief Operating Officer since 2002. Prior to joining Genomic Health, Kim served as Senior Vice President, Marketing and Sales at Genentech, Inc., a biotechnology company, dedicated to using human genetic information to discover, develop, manufacture and commercialize medicines to treat patients with serious or life-threatening medical conditions. During her 15 years at Genentech, Kim led the successful commercialization of 14 new therapies, including Herceptin®, the revolutionary targeted treatment that changed the way doctors treat a particularly aggressive form of breast cancer. Before joining Genentech, Kim served as division manager for American Critical Care, a division of American Hospital Supply. She serves on a number of boards including BayBio, American Clinical Laboratory Association, and is President of the Coalition for 21st Century Medicine. In addition, Kim is an advisor to the Healthcare Businesswomen’s Association. (HBA) Kim’s contributions to science and the commercialization of the biotechnology industry have been acknowledged by multiple organizations including, being named as the Woman of the Year in 2008 by the Women Health Care Executives and as one of the Most Influential Women in the Bay Area by The San Francisco Business Times from 2006 - 2012.  

Dr. Laura Shawver, CEO, Cleave Biosciences

Dr. Shawver is an experienced Biotech executive with more than 25 years of experience in the development of small molecule drugs for cancer and other serious diseases. Prior to joining Cleave Biosciences as Chief Executive Officer and driving the $54M Series A financing, she was an Entrepreneur in Residence for 5AM Ventures beginning October 2010. From 2002 - 2010, Dr. Shawver was the Chief Executive Officer of Phenomix Corporation where she also served on the Board of Directors. Phenomix was a venture-backed company that developed dutogliptin through a successful Phase 3 clinical trial and attracted collaborations from Forest Laboratories and Chiesi Farmaceutici. Previously, Dr. Shawver was the President of SUGEN Inc. from 2000 after holding various positions since 1992. SUGEN focused on understanding key molecular pathways of cancer cells and developed the drugs Sutent™ and Palladia™. The company was acquired by Pharmacia in 1999. Prior to SUGEN, she was employed at Berlex Biosciences, formerly known as Triton Biosciences. She is an active member of the American Association for Cancer Research and also a member of American Society for Clinical Oncologists. Dr. Shawver is the Founder of The Clearity Foundation, a nonprofit organization providing access to molecular profiling for ovarian cancer patients to improve their treatment options. Shawver received her PhD in Pharmacology and a BS degree in Microbiology, both from the University of Iowa.



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