Although the gender pay gap has slowly narrowed over the past several decades, white women are paid on average only 79%1 of what their male counterparts earn. And if you’re a black woman or Latina, the gap is more like a chasm – 62% and 54% respectively.
Against this backdrop of inequality, Thermo Fisher Scientific’s Madhu Ghosh, Ph.D., Senior Director of Global Strategic Partnerships, spoke recently about one of the most effective ways for women to advance more quickly in their careers and overcome pay inequality: mentorship.
Dr. Ghosh was one of the featured speakers of Women in Precision Medicine Mastermind, a pre-conference workshop of the Clinical Biomarkers & World CDx Boston conference. The Mastermind event brought together senior leaders — mostly women and a few men— from the worlds of laboratories, diagnostics, and pharma to talk about how to increase the number of women in top business positions.
The workshop began from the premise, now backed up with research, that a more diverse C-suite leads to improved company performance. Dr. Ghosh pointed out that of the top 10 professions where the gender pay gap is most yawning, two are in the life sciences: physician/surgeons and medical and health services managers.
“Mentoring is not about rescuing” asserted Dr. Ghosh. “The white knight syndrome is a tired trope. Reciprocal mentoring, when two peers support and help each other, is a very effective type of relationship,” she said. “A mentor does not have to be a superior.”
“Men can be powerful allies,” said colleague Rueben Stokes, Vice President of Global Diversity & Inclusion at Thermo Fisher, who joined Dr. Ghosh for her talk. He shared that men have a role to play as “sponsors” of women—a close cousin of a mentor—focused on using one’s influence and networks to connect a colleague to high-profile projects, promotions, and other sorts of advancement.
“Sponsorship initiatives must be intentional and tracked, including evaluating men for their potential as sponsors and then measuring how their advocacy is paying off,” Stokes said. He emphasized that it has become a Thermo Fisher priority to evaluate and close the gender pay gap within the next few years: “[the pay gap] hinders our ability to bring the best and brightest into the organization,” he said. “It also inhibits retention. There are plenty of competitors out there who are looking to poach our talent.”
After her brief talk, Dr. Ghosh joined four leaders from other companies for a panel discussion on how to create more opportunities for women in the workplace. Panelists talked about workplace imbalance as one key challenge, pointing to a lack of flex time for mothers who have competing family responsibilities. Creating a climate of flexibility must begin at the top, according to panelist Christina Bender, an executive at Bristol-Myers Squibb. She said she has witnessed top executives “waving goodbye to everyone, knocking on cubicles and announcing, ‘I’m going home now to watch my son’s basketball game.’ ”
Dr. Ghosh added that Thermo Fisher greatly values the well-being of employees and queries them at the end of the year about their level of happiness. She cautioned, however, that companies must strive to ensure work-life balance for all employees, not only parents.
Other speakers’ comments of note:
- Gender diverse companies are 15 percent more likely to out-perform other companies, while ethnically diverse businesses are 35 percent more likely.
- Some good news: compared to other industries, the life sciences have a greater percentage of women in the C-suite.
—Megan Ann Greenfield, partner, McKinsey
- Spend 25% of your time on planning your career and 75% of it on working. Women don’t do this. Plan and strategize your career like men do.
—Robin Toft, Toft Group Executive Search
- The most effective style of leadership today is “creative.” It’s about listening, showing vulnerability, being inspirational, participatory decision-making, setting expectations and rewarding people, and role modeling. These are all strengths of women.
—Natacha Catalino, senior organization expert and leadership coach, McKinsey & Company
For more about Thermo Fisher Scientific’s Diversity & Inclusion initiatives, click here.
To read inspirational stories from women in science, click here.
- The American Association of University Women (AAUW) , The Simple Truth about the Gender Pay Gap, 2018