One of the shifts we’ve been watching unfold across our industry, certainly in developed countries, is the increasing number of women rising up through the ranks to senior positions at global animal health companies.
I’m excited to see more female leaders than when I started in the industry 22 years ago; but even with the shift, only 15% of the executives within the top 10 leading animal health companies are women . And, although I appreciate how far we have come, I also recognise an additional hill to climb for gender parity and more diverse leadership teams in animal health.
Adding to the urgency for diversity, is the fact that the face of our industry is becoming female; women now outnumber men as both vets and vet nurses generally and we’re seeing similar developments in farming, as 30% of farm operators in my home country – the US – are women .
From a consumer perspective, 94% of women are making the healthcare decisions for their families and globally, women drive 70%-80% of consumer spending . Meanwhile, 55% of US Direct Sales Representatives in animal health workforces are female .
Yet, statistics from the 2015 Women in the Workplace survey have revealed that in general, women in entry-level positions are significantly more likely than men to spend more than five years plus in the same role. Three years later, the same survey has shown little movement in advancing women into first line manager positions at the same rate as men.
For these reasons, I am proud to be surrounded by many talented professional women in my role as the Chairman of Women in Leadership and Management in Animal Health (WILMAH) to help navigate these trends.
The non-profit association was founded to meet the needs of the increasing number of women who work in the animal health field. WILMAH members unite to provide professional resources, development opportunities and advocacy. Our vision is to ignite a culture of empowering current and future female leadership. We recognise one step requires building strength in each other through our community, and mentorship plays a key role here to reinforce the qualities that make women powerful influencers in the animal health industry.
We need more women stepping into leadership roles in their own organisations as we go forward. Women leaders pave the way for other women working at every level by influencing hiring and promotion decisions, while also escalating the current trajectory of women in senior positions.
WILMAH is striving to increase the total number of female leaders throughout the industry we serve and achieve gender parity in animal health in the next five years. We know this is a strong goal given current statistics but we see diversity and inclusion as a competitive advantage to our industry.
In the recent release of Delivering through Diversity from McKinsey & Co, they report a “positive correlation between gender diversity on executive teams and both our measures of financial performance: top quartile companies on executive-level diversity worldwide had a 21% likelihood for outperforming their fourth-quartile industry peers, and they also had a 27% likelihood of outperforming fourth-quartile peers on longer-term value creation .” Diversity of thought that comes from inclusive organizations will only help us to create innovation that will better serve our changing customer base, and make Animal Health the industry to be in for the future.
Elanco Animal Health is continuing this important work on its road to independence, fostering an inclusive and diverse, cause-driven culture. Elanco recognized the significance of WILMAH’s vision early and has been a key sponsor of the association since its launch in 2018.
Women are perfectly-placed to succeed in a sector to leverage their natural strengths such as empathy and relationship-building which are central to the cause. In fact, there’s the potential for the animal health industry to become a model for other industries to follow here.
1 Animal Pharm
3Center for Talent Innovation
4 Forbes Magazine 2015
5 Vet-Advantage 2016 Reader Survey
6 Women in the Workplace 2016
7Women in the Workplace 2018
8 McKinsey&Company “Diversity Matters” 2017