Interviews with more than a dozen biotech founders, executives and analysts reveal an industry built on empirical data grappling with a glaring gender divide.
LOS ALTOS, Calif. — Five years ago, fresh off a post-doctoral fellowship at Stanford focused on immunobiology, Karin Lachmi decided to forge her own path in the biotech industry.
The Israeli-born scientist with a Ph.D. in molecular biology started pitching a startup: a search engine for life science research, which would digitize and summarize articles rated by peers. The Yelp-for-biotech idea quickly captured the attention of Silicon Valley venture capitalists. Pitches to male investors, though, didn’t always go as planned.
“I hate to say it, but I never go anymore to meetings with a male investor without another male,” said Lachmi, now founder and chief scientific officer of the Los Altos company Bioz. “There was one that after a meeting invited me to a Jacuzzi. There was one that forced me to kiss him in the middle of a meeting.”
Interviews with more than a dozen Bay Area biotech founders, executives and analysts reveal an industry that prides itself on empirical data grappling with how to confront a glaring gender divide. Some of those interviewed spoke about blatant sexism, subtle verbal slights and stunted career growth. A San Francisco Business Times analysis of company data shows how board and executive leadership is still largely dominated by men.