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Gender Differences in the Life Sciences Sector

Gender Differences in the Life Sciences Sector

The Challenges of Being a Woman in the Life Science Industry

The workplace has undergone significant changes in recent years. According to a 2019 study by McKinsey and Company, the number of women in C-suite positions grew from 17% to 21%, between 2015 to 2019. However, we are nowhere near the ideal scenario and gender differences remain a problem. Another 2018 research conducted by the World Economic Forum showed that only in 202 years, women will receive the same salary as men.

Shocking as these numbers may be, they show the reality in the workplace. And this reality is transversal to all sectors. Life Sciences industry is no exception, even if women are the majority among medical school applicants and 32,5% of physicians are women. 

A 2018 research showed that even in awards attribution in this field, there was a gender gap. The researchers analysed data from 1990 to 2016 and the results were clear: female physicians won fewer awards. And from 2012 to 2016, no woman won any award. Why is this study important? Because in this area the curriculum is everything. In addition, the organisations that control the awards also control scientific publications, journals and a lot of them distribute funds.

However, gender differences are not just in the awards. Suicide rates among physicians are higher than in any other profession. And women are 1,6 more likely to commit suicide than their male colleagues. Also, female doctors and physicians have a higher risk of depression or burnout. According to a 2019 study from the researcher Elena Frank, women are more likely to work part-time or stop for a while, after medical training because they find it difficult to have a healthy work-life balance, since they have more family and home duties. A lot of times, they do not have another option. Thus, companies and businesses must help these workers achieve balance.

All things considered, female physicians are extremely crucial. According to a 2016 research hospitalised patients treated by them are less likely to die or be readmitted, within the next 30 days. This reveals differences in the way male and female workers treat their patients. They also found that women have a better patient-centred communication, which can help with treatment and interaction.

It is crucial to understand that if employees are not treated fairly and if they are not well, the sector will equally be affected. Thus, male workers, hospitals, laboratories and the Life Sciences industry need to acknowledge and help overcome the issues that female employees face. Tackling gender inequality, improving the mental and physical health of these women, facilitating access to leadership positions, paying men and women equally and developing family support systems are ways to strengthen the Life Sciences Industry and its female workers.


  1. Too many female doctors go part-time or stop working — why that’s a big problem, August 2019, MarketWatch
  2. The challenges of being a female doctor, July 2019, Medical Economics
  3. Why are women excluded from medical society awards?, July 2017, STAT