Women face discrimination in their pharmaceuticals industry careers, Skillnet study finds

A quarter of female pharmaceutical sector workers believe gender has a negative impact on their career, a study has found.

he study, published by state agency Skillnet on International Women’s Day, said that Ireland’s largest exporters could turbo-charge profits if they hired more women.

While women make up 40pc of the workforce in biopharmaceutical, pharmaceutical and chemical companies in Ireland, that falls to 34pc on senior leadership teams. A third are in support roles.

Female representation drops to as low as 17pc in traditionally male-dominated fields such as engineering.

Women tend to be concentrated in the biological sciences and human resources, said Paul McCabe, chief operating officer at Irish specialist medicine manufacturer, VLE Therapeutics.

“The talent pipeline is a significant challenge,” he said.

“Female talent going into Stem subjects (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) drops off a cliff in transition year.”

While the proportion of women at the middle of the pay scale – in middle management, supervisory or technician roles – is between 40pc and 50pc, that number falls at more senior levels.

“There are a number of challenges, particularly around people at the mid-level of their careers, where family or childcare is an issue,” Mr McCabe said.

Chemicals and pharmaceuticals are Ireland’s largest exports, making up 64pc of goods exports last year at more than €133bn in value – up a third on 2021.

But more diverse companies gain on their competitors, Skillnet said.

“There is a clear path to better profitability,” Mr McCabe said. “A better balance means better business outcomes.”

Consulting firm Accenture says a culture of equality can lead to up to a 33pc increase in profits, while rival advisory firm McKinsey says more diverse executive teams are 25pc more likely to experience above-average profitability than their peers.

The biopharmaceutical, pharmaceutical and chemistry sector in Ireland employs more than 80,000 people directly and indirectly and helped to add to the record number of jobs in multinational companies and the wider economy last year.

Jobs in medical devices and pharmaceutical firms made up just under 35pc of multinational jobs last year, with the sector having the second-highest figure after technology.

With ongoing layoffs in the tech sector, IDA Ireland is increasingly pinning its job creation hopes on the pharmaceutical sector.

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