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UK Pharma Ahead of France and Germany in Diversity


New research published by Heidrick & Struggles has found that country managers and European heads in the UK pharmaceutical sector are far more internationally diverse than their French and German counterparts.

In stark contrast to France, where only 7% of these executives have international backgrounds, almost three-quarters (70%) of UK executives come from outside Britain. In Germany, a third (33%) of senior roles are held by non-German nationals. Additionally, all British pharma executives surveyed have moved at least once to a foreign country for work, a quarter have lived in two foreign countries and almost a third (31%) in three or more.

In the pharmaceutical sector the UK is also the most gender-diverse, with women filling almost four out of 10 (38%) of country manager positions compared to only 15% in Germany and 14% in France. In medtech, however, France leads the way with almost a quarter (22%) of country managers being women compared to just 10% in Germany and the UK. One company, Janssen, is notable for its gender diversity, with two-thirds of country manager roles being held by women.   

However, the overall pattern across the UK, France and Germany shows that at this level, the pharmaceutical industry is still largely dominated by middle-aged men. The typical Country Manager profile is a 50-year-old man with a science background who has spent an average of 17.8 years in his current company. He has strong international experience and sales and marketing skills.

Younger executives and those with significant experience outside pharma are also conspicuous by their absence from the leadership ranks. Seven out of 10 pharmaceutical country managers (71%) have no experience outside the pharmaceutical sector and three-quarters (74%) were promoted internally after spending almost 18 years spent in the same company.

Across the three countries, two-thirds of the pharmaceutical executives surveyed (67%) have a master’s degree, largely in science disciplines (66%), and a similar proportion (67%) also have an advanced degree, usually an MBA (65%). French executives have the most master degrees, with a total of 86% of them holding one, but it is also the country with the fewest advanced degrees, with only 57.1% of its executives holding one. In contrast, 76.9% of UK executives have an advanced degree.

The medtech sector also lacks diversity. The typical profile of a country manager in medtech is a 52-year-old man with a non-science background. Whilst he or she has experience outside the sector, they have still spent an average of 17.4 years in their current company. He or she does not necessarily have international experience, but has strong sales and marketing skills.

Medtech is even less gender-diverse than pharma, with men filling almost nine out of 10 (88%) of country manager roles. However, the sector is less conservative than the pharmaceutical industry and more readily attracts executives from other sectors. Half the executives surveyed (49%) were recruited from other sectors and half also have a non-scientific background.