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Where Are The Women In San Diego’s Biotech Industry?

Helen Torley, CEO, Halozyme Therapeutics.
Halozyme Therapeutics
Helen Torley, CEO, Halozyme Therapeutics.
Where Are The Women In San Diego’s Biotech Industry?
GUEST: Helen Torley, CEO, Halozyme Therapeutics

Just because a company's work is cutting-edge doesn't mean it's hiring policies are that's one of the takeaways from a report on San Diego's biotech industry. Out of the 44 publicly traded biotech companies in San Diego only one has a female -- woman as CEO and women make up only 9% of their boards of directors. The report was compiled by the executive recruitment firm lifestream and it reflects the long-standing fact that women are underrepresented in life sciences and the high-tech industries. Joining me is the one female biotech CEO in San Diego Helen Torley of Halozyme Therapeutics. In your case it really is lonely at the top. Did you realize that you were one of the only women in top management in life sciences firms in San Diego? I didn't actually realize this was quite a dire. I'm pretty familiar with the being less women than men in many of the CEO that they go to but certainly room for improvement there. There was a discussion after this report came out that the gender equity might be better in privately held firms. Is that your experience? I'm not familiar with the statistics but if I think about it broadly the people I know in the industry I think that the imbalance is still pretty stark there as well. Even if there is no overt determination to think there's an unconscious bias in hiring in the biotech field? In terms of hiring practices I think what is key is they start off with a good candidate slates that improves diversity including women. If you work hard it's that you will end up avoiding that type of potential for there being some bias involved. In my career I've certainly been in discussions with people have said oh don't offer a rule to her she may not be able to move her family. I see that's less and less in recent years. What about the number of young women in the pipeline is referred long time that there's been an emphasis on getting women and minorities into stem courses, into the fields of life sciences and biotech and high-tech. Is that working? I believe it's working let me give you a statistic that he was I'm were 52% women, 48% males. We are life science companies that includes people who are working in research, clinicians etc. so certainly in the San Diego area we've got great facilities and institutions that we can draw talented candidates from and certainly we've been able to do that at Hellas I'm. What was your path to the CEO position? Obviously from your accent we can tell that you are not a native from the United States so how did you get into top management? I trained as a clinician a rejoined that I came to the states have worked in different aspects of directive element during the conical trials through to commercializing and making the products available for people. I just gradually worked my way up. Ultimately when I decided I wanted to be a CEO I recognized that passed need to be a lot more plan fall and frankly learning this woman were not always very good at understanding what our strengths are. I spent the weekend, I heard a coach we spent time talking about what I done and how it would better articulates that so that when I went in to pinch myself to boards because of the CEO you need to have the board behind you a very clear sense of my value proposition, what I was bringing to the table and I made it distinct and different. But I worked hard at it and ever, has been denied spending an entire weekend in a hotel room just talking about how I was going to be able to that are communicate and so myself. And it's very interesting what you say you have to plan for it, you have to want it, you have to say this is what my career track is. I'm wondering Helen did you find barriers to moving ahead because you are a woman? You encounter barriers from time to time. You find people who don't believe you are ready to succeed or will do -- like I said -- but barriers and like she's got up family let's give her little bit more time. Certainly throughout my career I would have bosses of both genders who were supportive of my aspirations in other words -- ones were less actively supported. If you have a true sense yourself of what you want to do in the work hard to get its I think you can overcome it. Some might question why it matters. You made a point a while ago that most companies realize that they should have a diverse employee and management tell us again why does that matter? Let me give an example, if you are trying to come up with a new way to design a clinical study -- if you have people who have come from different backgrounds and experiences and have seen different ways of doing it and have different understanding of how patients might react to wanted to be participating in conical study -- if you put all of those ideas around the table to design that particular program you're not going to come up with something you previously have just done in the past or if you been in a certain type of company who does it a certain way you very likely to repeat it unless you bring forward new people into new ideas. I think that's where the power will come from team thinking not from individual thinking, relying on our past experiences -- whether we want to or not we all end up doing. Finally you are very optimistic because you look at your company and you see that indeed the gender gap is closing. When you look around the rest of the industry do you think that we are close to getting to the point where we are not going to be talking anymore about the underrepresentation of women in the biotech industry? The statistics the report he started out talking about tell us we have a way to go. What is the optimism is and I do use my own company as an example to say that 40% all the people in the senior director are women. Of we develop those young women and men right they will be the next VPs and CEOs of the San Diego biotech and indeed quotable biotech so I'm optimistic. We can't let our guard down we've got to make sure that we are putting profit of element plans in place, managers are engaging with their employees to say what are your aspirations and giving them the opportunities to grow and develop. I think that's another very important thing I've had lots of great young women who say want to have a baby, I don't want to go straight back to work afterwards will that affect my career. It is important you work in an organization mercy to them will not have a year of experience your peers will have but it won't stop you being -- when you're ready to go back coming right back in and starting again. Do is right for you and that's a very important message it was the message I got when I stopped to my children 25+ years ago and I think that's the difference we can make for young women. Take the time -- EE have exactly the same career you wanted to have with children if you plan is properly. I have been speaking with Helen Torley CEO of Halozyme Therapeutics. Helen thank you. Thank you so much.

San Diego’s life sciences community is facing a gender diversity problem.

A new report shows that out of 44 publicly traded biotech companies in San Diego, only one has a female chief executive officer.

Helen Torley is the CEO of Sorrento Valley-based Halozyme Therapeutics, which develops cancer therapies.


The gender gap is an issue in other biotech hub cities, but the report said that with fewer women being recruited to CEO positions, it’s especially bad in San Diego.

Torley discusses how biotech can narrow the gender gap on Midday Edition Tuesday.