Raising the Bar

By Javier Barrientos, Senior Director, Global Diversity + Inclusion, Biogen

There are very few moments in our lives and careers, where we can play a role in shaping history. The magnitude of challenges facing women in the workplace range in size and scope, but the need for better board room representation is acute. This was validated when we learned in 2013 the disturbing fact that if nothing changes it would take 75 years to reach gender parity on corporate boards.

It helps to work at an exciting, invigorating, ambitious and nimble company, where courageous innovation and inclusive leadership is encouraged and expected. With 52% of our workforce being women, we take gender inclusion opportunities, including development opportunities, very seriously.

Through research and brainstorming with colleagues inside and outside of Biogen (including the 30% Club), an idea started to take shape about advancing women’s leadership and quickly it gained momentum. Raising the Bar: Women on Corporate Boards is a Biogen initiative that proactively sponsors top talent to serve on the boards of other companies.  Additionally, we partnered with George Washington University’s program to build the educational component that would empower our executive women to be successful immediately in their placements.

This first-of-its kind initiative is a natural extension from creating women’s leadership programs, learning offerings and the Women’s Innovation Network (WIN) at Biogen, including women at all levels in their careers. We also know from experience that having several women on our own corporate board has improved performance. Diversity of perspective makes good business sense.

Other corporations, research and women’s organizations as well as journalists have been taking an interest in this effort. Senator Karen Spilka of Massachusetts even invited us to speak at a Massachusetts hearing of the Joint Committee on Labor and Workforce development along with other companies focused on changing the paradigm. This  non-binding resolution, which was approved in late July, encourages companies to increase their representation of women on boards.

You, too, can play a role in this movement. You can share within your companies, volunteer organizations or government representatives, why it might be important to add more women to the corporate board room. We appreciate your support.