Where are the female leaders in animal health?

There are currently no female chief executives at any of the major animal health companies.
However, this may not be surprising as the Harvard Business Review notes, only 1.5% of chief executives at the world’s top 2,000 companies are women. This is despite GlaxoSmithKline becoming the first top-tier pharma firm to employ a female at its helm recently.
To find the animal health industry’s female leaders, one has to look at smaller businesses. For example, US firms such as Advanced Animal Diagnostics, Jaguar Animal Health and Likarda are all headed by women – Joy Parr Drach, Lisa Conte and Lisa Stehno-Bittel, respectively. Notably, Kindred Biosciences’ chief operating officer is one of the firm’s co-founders and veterinary generics specialist Putney was led by Jean Hoffman until it was acquired by Dechra Pharmaceuticals earlier this year.
As well as being some of the only female business leaders in animal health, these four women have something else in common – they founded their companies themselves.

Executive roles

There are, of course, more women working across several executive roles in animal health. According to Animal Pharm estimates, 15% of the current top executives at the 10 largest veterinary drug manufacturers are female.
This is largely in line with the same quota in the human health industry. According to Animal Pharm‘s sister publication Scrip, around 16% of executives at the top 10 human pharma firms are female.
Out of the top 10 veterinary medicine players, Zoetis has the most women in its executive leadership with four out of nine team members being female – Heidi Chen is the firm’s general counsel; Catherine Knupp is  president of R&D; Roxanne Lagano is  chief human resources officer; and Kristin Peck is president of the company’s US operations.
Ms Lagano told Animal Pharm: “We definitely value diversity at Zoetis and that’s diversity in terms of gender, background or race.”
She said over 40% of the firm’s global workforce is female with many women also filling management positions below the top-level executive roles.
“The flexibility we provide working mothers and the benefits we promote are something we’re proud of,” Ms Lagano added. “I do believe women are playing a more important role in animal health and the veterinary industry.”
She said she expects this importance to grow even further. “We have a strong focus on diversity in our talent planning. We target high-potential, up-and-comers at the business – both men and women.”

Zoetis lands recognition

Zoetis’ role in encouraging female talent has been recognized by Working Mother magazine. The company has been named in the publication’s top 100 businesses for working mothers for three consecutive years.
Firms are awarded by Working Mother magazine for their commitment to progressive workplace programs such as flexibility, advancement, paid family leave and childcare.
Zoetis said it ranked highly due to its “benefits and work-life programs, health and wellness offerings, back-up child care, paid time off, leaves of absence, adoption assistance and tuition aid programs”.
Zoetis also hands out its own annual working mother award, which this year went to Evelyn Ortiz – the firm’s chief talent officer, who was commended for maintaining her work and family commitments whilst undergoing treatments for stage three breast cancer.
While Zoetis was the only standalone animal health company to be featured in the Working Mother ranking, other companies with veterinary medicine businesses were also included. These were Boehringer Ingelheim USA, Eli Lilly and Merck.

Majority female vets not reflected in industry

Incidentally, in 2015, around 58% of US veterinarians were female according to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA). In 2010, this figure was around 52%.
The latest statistics from the AVMA – available here – suggest there are more females working in US private practices, as well as in public and corporate positions. However, there are more men employed in industry roles.
According to the Federation of Veterinarians of Europe in 2015: “Across almost all countries, the male/female ratio is approximately 50:50. However, the proportion of female veterinarians is much higher amongst veterinarians under 40, indicating that there will be a change in the gender distribution within the profession in the future. There is no indication that this will change as higher numbers of females continue to enter undergraduate training.”
Linda Rhodes, former chief executive of Aratana Therapeutics and co-founder of AlcheraBio, said the veterinary profession has shifted to more women veterinarians in the last 10 years “but this shift has not been reflected in either the R&D or marketing/sales organizations of animal health companies”.
Dr Rhodes told Animal Pharm: “Women may come into these companies at entry level positions at reasonable numbers but are not mentored and groomed for leadership. So the ‘pipeline’ leaks because women get frustrated at lack of opportunity and leave.
“Once a promotion will result in real power and a budget, the number of women in these positions is decreased precipitously.”
Dr Rhodes also pointed out that many of the supporting businesses in animal health such as consultancies and contract research organizations are also predominately populated by men. However, she said the US FDA’s Center for Veterinary Medicine (CVM) does have a lot of talented women in senior positions.
The CVM’s previous director Dr Bernadette Dunham left her post at the agency earlier this year.

Industry disconnect with customers?

While Dr Rhodes suggested there is a change occurring regarding equal gender employment for management roles in animal health, she also drew parallels between the animal health industry and the human health sector.
“Companies are slowly changing but what is happening in the animal health industry is not much different from human pharma,” Dr Rhodes noted.
“The big difference is, with the veterinary profession becoming increasingly feminized, the animal health company leadership is not reflecting its customer base. The result can be that the company is disconnected and does not understand its customers, and has trouble communicating with them.”
Dr Rhodes told Animal Pharm she felt compelled to start AlcheraBio and Aratana due to the lack of leadership positions open to females in the animal health industry.

‘We need more women in leadership positions’

Following Dr Rhodes’ retirement this year, Aratana now has four female team members amongst its management or board of directors – representation of around 30%.
Dr Rhodes added: “Part of Aratana’s success is due to the ‘A’ team that I recruited which was very gender balanced, and to the fact that we had many senior women and female board members.
“I often mentor very talented women within the industry who are frustrated, seeing less qualified men promoted while their careers stall. The company leaders that realize the amazing talent pool they have in the women in their company and mentor, support and promote them, will unleash a huge amount of human capital.
“We need more women in leadership positions in all areas and more women on boards of directors to be asking hard questions about gender diversity in the top positions.”

Merial, Bayer and Boehringer diversity standpoint

Merial told Animal Pharm it is actively engaged in ensuring diversity in its leadership in order to include gender balance.
“About 10 years ago, this became an important strategic goal for the company and Merial invested heavily to make this happen,” a spokesperson said. “We went from about 10% women in the top 300 of the company to 40% today. Several women are head of a country and about 30% of our industrial sites are led by women.”
Merial noted numerous women have critical positions at the top of the company: Veronique Kodjo is the firm’s global head of industrial operations; Silke Birlenbach is global head of livestock (cattle, swine), veterinary public health and equine; Judy Jarecki-Black is global head of intellectual property; Corinne Demee is global head of communications; and Susan Scholtis is head of US business operations.
Bayer Animal Health echoed Merial’s suggestion that women are increasingly being employed in management roles as part of “the next level of leaders” – the strata of jobs lying just below the top executive positions.
Boehringer Ingelheim’s animal health team said the wider company “is committed to create an inclusive work environment that enables all employees to develop and perform to their full potential”.
“We truly believe that diverse views, different experiences and the combined knowledge we possess makes a significant difference to our ability to understand the increasingly complex global and diverse markets and customers we serve,” the company told Animal Pharm.
“In animal health, our executive management team is composed by 14% of women. We will continue focusing on diversity and inclusion in the planned transaction with Sanofi, which consists of an exchange of Sanofi’s animal health business and Boehringer Ingelheim’s consumer healthcare business.”