Life Science

Reflecting on Women Who Lead in Life Sciences

Last week, my colleague Dana George and I had the opportunity to attend San Francisco Business Times’ Women Who Lead in Life Sciences event. The event featured a panel of women in top roles at life science companies, who spoke about their personal stories and the most current challenges facing women in the life science industry today. Because diversity, inclusion, and equity are important to us personally and are also a significant part of ABD’s ethos, we found this panel especially insightful.

Here our some of our key takeaways:

  1. Women must support other women. The panelists noted that women are less likely to advocate for themselves than their male counterparts, so women in all positions must be willing to lift up and support their women colleagues.

  2. Women should follow their passions. We agreed that women should prioritize pursuing their career goals, even if others tell them they can’t do it. One panelist noted that she used this pushback to her advantage – the element of surprise when she rose to the challenge and succeeded despite obstacles reinforced her confidence in her abilities.

  3. Diversity in life sciences is good for innovation and business growth. The inclusion of women, people of color, and people from diverse backgrounds isn’t just the right thing to do – it’s good for business. Diversity at all levels of business has been shown to lead to greater innovation and customer support.

  4. Women have been shown to negotiate their compensation far less often than men. People in leadership roles should adjust women’s salaries if men are paid more for the same job and same quality work. Updating metrics and increasing visibility surrounding wages, promotions, and management structure is also necessary for ensuring equitable pay.

  5. Women of color, plus-sized women, LGBTQ women, transwomen, and women from unconventional backgrounds are woefully underrepresented in clinical trials. Adjusting trials to include people of all genders, races, ethnicities and backgrounds is essential for ensuring that clinical trials are effective and yield better data.

is the National Life Science Practice Leader at ABD Insurance & Financial Services and leads a team of experienced risk management professionals that service approximately 300 life science clients. She can be reached at

Cristina Varner
The Author
Cristina Varner

National Life Science & Healthcare Practice Leader

Cristina Varner is the Life Science Practice Leader, leading a team of experienced account management professionals that service approximately 300 life science accounts. With 20+ years in the risk management field, Cristina is one of the industry’s foremost experts in complex Product Liability exposures and Clinical Trials insurance all over the world. She is the founder of the Life Science Practice at both her former employer and Newfront, deploying her vast experience with life science companies from start-up to grown up.

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