Biotech convention offers exhibit A in case for women at the top

As BIO International convenes here on its 25th anniversary, we applaud Bob Coughlin, president of the Massachusetts Biotechnology Council, who has drawn the line on participating in all-male speaker panels, or “manels” (“ ‘Manels’ have no place in business,” Shirley Leung, Page A1, May 18). Coughlin’s leadership is an example for BIO to embrace. But despite an uptick in women speakers, 25 panels at this year’s convention are all male, according to Gender Avenger.

For 15 years, The Boston Club has chronicled progress in gender and racial diversity on corporate boards of the 100 largest public companies in Massachusetts, and it has lamented the glacial pace. According to the Pew Research Center, it took more than 20 years for a 10 percentage-point increase of women on Fortune 500 boards, from 1995 to 2016 (9.6 percent to 20.2 percent).

Large institutional investors are beginning to hold boards accountable for diversity, pressuring the laggards by actively voting against directors at companies with insufficient female board representation.


We hope Coughlin is a trendsetter, leading the way to bring more voices to business gatherings. A new standard of diversity at the podium would benefit the Massachusetts business community and beyond.

Hilary Potts

Chair, Corporate Board Committee

The Boston Club