Though there has been a significant improvement for women in the sciences over the past few decades, men continue to dominate leadership positions, especially in the biotech sphere. Lavin Speaker and former President of MIT Susan Hockfield teamed up with entrepreneur Sangeeta Bhatia and biologist Nancy Hopkins to push for change.
Susan Hockfield, Sangeeta Bhatia, and Nancy Hopkins—a biologist who uncovered discrimination at MIT in the 1990s—joined forces to quantify gender bias in the biotech industry, starting with the university. They found that out of 250 start-ups by MIT faculty, less than 10% of were founded by women—despite the fact that women make up 22% of the institution. “We were roughly aware, [even] without data, that women were not participating at the rate that men were, and that, to us, represents a missed opportunity,” Hockfield said. In this specific case, the missed opportunity translates into 40 biotech companies that do not exist today.
Wanting more than just to illustrate the problem, the trio have convened the Boston biotech working group—including the investor community and leaders at MIT—to make sure something changes. MIT is now working on a fellowship that offers tenured female faculty the opportunity to take a semester off to work at a venture capital firm, a practice they hope will continue at other universities.
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