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Published: 12th December 2023

UK life sciences stepping up efforts to increase equality, diversity and inclusion

New report celebrates success and identifies opportunities for further progress.

Employers in the UK life sciences sector should use the recent improvements in equality, diversity and inclusion (ED&I) as a springboard for even greater progress, according to a new report from the Science Industry Partnership (SIP).

The SIP’s new ED&I report shows almost three-quarters (74 per cent) life science employers have an ED&I strategy, with more than half (58 per cent) saying it is embedded in their wider organisational strategy.

However, there are areas where employers can strive for greater progress – such as increasing ethnic diversity and gender balance, particularly in senior positions.

Around 304,200 people are employed in the UK life sciences sector. The report found the industry is currently around 60 per cent male to 40 per cent, with the greater balance (42.5 per cent female to 57.5 male) among people in the middle period of their careers (aged 30 to 49) – though this figure drops to around 36% among employees aged 50 and above.  

The industry’s gender pay gap – the difference in median hourly earnings between men and women – is currently 7.1 per cent, significantly below the average for the UK economy at as a whole (14.3 per cent) (1). What’s more, 41 per cent of respondents said a lack of women in senior positions was a concern – though this is down from 47 per cent in the last survey (2021).

Other indicators in this area are encouraging, with 89 per cent of employers offering flexible working arrangements to support a better work-life balance – which is significant given women still hold the majority of caring responsibilities in families, and therefore greater flexibility at work means they are more able to progress and earn higher salaries.

Increasing equality, diversity and inclusion in our industry is not just ethically important – it also makes good business sense. Whether someone has years of valuable experience or is entering the industry with fresh thinking and ideas, diverse perspectives are crucial to innovation and creativity. I welcome the progress made by life science employers and look forward to working with our partners to strive for even more in the future.

Dr Malcolm Skingle, Director of Academic Liaison at GSK and chair of the SIP

This important report rightly highlights both the successes and opportunities across the life science sector to ensure employers of all sizes put increasing ED&I at the very heart of everything they do. I hope this is a step towards life sciences becoming an exemplar for other industries to follow in terms of its ambition and dedication to this crucial objective.

Susan Rienow, Country President of Pfizer

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