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A Public Reality for Women in Biotech Boardrooms

The business imperatives for boardroom diversity are slowly becoming understood by those serving on boards, as well as those who evaluate and scrutinise boards. The scrutiny that companies face increases significantly as private companies go public. The transition from a private to publicly listed company brings great opportunities, as well as risks and different challenges, all of which place additional demands on the board. The board of directors which oversees this shift of strategic landscape must itself evolve, to reflect the future needs of the company. This important transition opens the door to propagate a highly diverse slate of new board directors and to be rewarded with the full advantages this brings.

This report, A Public Reality for Women in Biotech Boardrooms, details a study of 177 biotech companies which conducted an Initial Public Offering (IPO) between 2012 and 2015. It assesses whether companies take advantage of the benefits of a well constituted and diverse board during the transition from private to public, as well as in their early years as a public company. It focuses on the representation of women on these boards, with the express intent of measuring the level and trajectory of gender diversity.

Specifically, Liftstream looked at pre- and post-IPO board composition and tracked the rate of board director replacements, analysing the sustainability of gender diversity in this context. Additionally, we evaluated the corporate governance structure of the newly listed public companies and studied its link with boardroom diversity. Moreover, we examined the level of gender diversity among the Venture Capitalists serving on biotech boards, and VC’s impact on the process of diversification of these boards. Furthermore, we scrutinised board committees and looked at whether boards integrate women directors in a way that discharges diverse talent and its capabilities. Attempting to demonstrate a clear link between gender diversity in the boardroom and financial performance, we tracked the share price performance of all the public biotech companies studied. Finally, based on our observations, we predicted how long it would take to reach 30% as well as 50% of women directors in the boardrooms of the biotech companies studied.


Who should download the report:

  • Chair or Board Directors of Private and Public Biotech Companies
  • CEO of Private and Public Biotech Companies
  • Chairs and members of Nomination and Governance Committees
  • Non-Executive Board Directors 
  • Venture Capitalists and Leaders of Venture Firms
  • Investors (e.g. Public Markets, Pension Funds, Investment Institutions)
  • C-Suite Executives Evaluating Board Opportunities



Total number of pages: 41

Executive Summary

1. Introduction

2. About This Report

3. Public Biotech’s Boardroom Gender Imbalance

4. The Leadership Culture in Public Biotechs

5. The Venture Capitalists Leave the Boardroom

6. Board Committees Fall Short of Inclusion

7. The Boardroom Has a Revolving Door

8. The Financial Business Case for Boardroom Diversity

9. Planning for Parity – a Life’s Work

10. Conclusion

11. Methodology


Charts, Tables and Graphs:

Table 1 Number of companies that filed IPO each year

Figure 1 Number of board directors in new public listed biotechs

Figure 2 Proportion of women board directors in each cohort at the time of IPO

Figure 3 Number of boards with women board directors within each IPO cohort

Figure 4 Proportion of companies with a diverse board

Figure 5 Proportion of women board directors in each IPO cohort over time

Figure 6 Proportion of all CEOs and Chair positions that are held by women

Figure 7 Board governance of new public listed companies

Figure 8 Proportion of boards with role of CEO and Chairperson combined within each IPO cohort over time

Figure 9 Gender composition of boards relative to their governance type

Figure 10 Number of VC board directors in new public listed companies

Figure 11 Gender composition of VCs and Exec Directors at the time of IPO

Figure 12 Number of VC board directors in each IPO cohort over time

Figure 13 Representation of board directors in IPO 2013 cohort over time

Figure 14 Average number of board directors serving on board committees (expressed per board)

Figure 15 Distribution of women non-exec directors serving on board committees

Figure 16 Average number of women directors from diverse boards serving on board committees (expressed per board)

Figure 17 Proportion of all committees’ chairperson positions held by women

Figure 18 Turnover of non-executive directors

Figure 19 Net changes in board directors of public listed companies since IPO until 2016

Figure 20 Comparison of average percentage change in share price since IPO between companies with all-male vs diverse boards

Figure 21 Predicted timeline required to reach 30% and 50% of women directors on boards

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