Results of the 32nd annual MM&M Career and Salary Survey are now available, and they suggest a need to double down on the wage-parity push. The salary gender gap in medical marketing, which had shrunk last year, reversed course and widened in 2018.

Pay in the biopharma marketing sector reached a new high. But men’s pay did most of the climbing, from $171,400 to $189,440, while salaries for women actually dipped, from $144,100 to $141,784. As our accompanying analysis points out, that meant the gender pay gap widened to 33.6% from 18.9%.

It’s amazing that after all the attention paid to gender issues in the media, and all of the approaches offered at industry conferences, that this chasm is still expanding. 

Some say the remuneration regression is only temporary, that there’s simply a time lag between the progress women have made in taking on leadership roles and the higher pay for those roles being reflected in surveys like this. Even if that’s true, this salary slide should be a wake-up call to redouble parity efforts on a personal, government, and corporate level:

  • Women need to do a better job of explicitly requesting more money. They tend to start at a lower wage and get promoted at a lower rate compared to men, and breaking out of this cycle requires a “commitment or decision to understand their worth,” said Amy Turnquist, EVP of sales at eHealthcare Solutions, and head of the Philadelphia chapter of the Healthcare Businesswomen’s Association. “As women, we often negotiate salary based on what we’ve made in the past, so we really need to understand what our baseline is in the industry.”
  • Government, too, can do its part, for instance, by providing women with the skills for salary negotiation, as Boston recently did, and in pushing for transparency. Even though President Trump rolled back a rule that had required large companies to disclose employee pay by race and gender, some states have passed pay equity laws requiring contractors to report pay data, and some corporations have their own salary transparency policies. Sites like Glassdoor and Payscale offer information women can act upon. “What it boils down to is, if you don’t ask for it, you’re not going to get it,” said Meghan Rivera, VP, digital customer engagement, Amag Pharmaceuticals.
  • But negotiating alone is not enough to fix the earnings gap. Companies need to take a good look at parity in compensation, as well as train managers to change mindsets and root out unconscious biases that can undermine these efforts. As Lisa Suennen, co-founder of C-Sweetener, the mentoring organization for women, wrote in a blog post, “How would you feel if you knew your wife or daughter was getting paid less than a male colleague for equal or superior work? Take that outrage and spread it around. Make it a mission for good.”

It’s amazing after all the attention paid to gender issues in the media, and all of the approaches offered at industry conferences, this chasm is still expanding

The 33% gender pay gap in life sciences is simply unacceptable. Among the ramifications: at a time when industry is competing for talent against the likes of Apple and Amazon, it could lead to an exodus of women.

And that wouldn’t be a good outcome, since data show having women on management teams leads to better performance. As manufacturers and agencies increasingly address diversity and equality in the workplace, they must make equal compensation a priority, as well.