How women in biotech leadership are driving change in the workplace

At BioCryst, women in leadership create a supportive community and ways to pave the trail for others.

Posted Updated
Abbey Slattery
, WRAL Digital Solutions
This article was written for our sponsor, BioCryst Pharmaceuticals.
There is still much progress to be made in achieving gender parity among leadership roles in the biotech industry. As noted in a 2021 report from the Biotechnology Innovation Organization, women comprise only 31% of the industry's executives.

Durham-based BioCryst is committed to narrowing the gap as it continues to attract talent and build its employee base.

“I believe that the most important factor in supporting women in leadership is the culture of the company, which for us is especially focused on the principle of ownership. We have created a company where the expectation is that we all act like owners, and we are in this together. It’s this mentality that helps to create an environment where everyone is empowered to ‘lean in,’” said Alane Barnes, chief legal officer at BioCryst. “In addition, we have a culture that values diversity. We recognize that diverse leadership makes us stronger, and this combination of ownership and valuing diversity is powerful. When everyone is moving toward the same goal and seeing others as part of the same team—it’s a wonderful place for people, especially women, to thrive professionally.”

Barnes has been at BioCryst for over 15 years, playing a role in helping to shape the culture and blaze the trail for more diverse leadership. But leadership is just one part of the equation.

Like many companies, BioCryst is focused on finding and retaining “good people” at all levels across the organization. One important consideration when building a team is ensuring a company hires employees that come from diverse backgrounds with unique perspectives.

“If you hire many people who all think very similarly, you run this risk of getting the same or similar outcomes. If you have people on a team who have different frames of reference or experiences, then you tend to get a better and different outcome,” said Stephanie Angelini, chief people officer at BioCryst. “I'd love to tell you that there is a ‘secret formula,’ but we just hire really great talent. When you hire great people, they then tell their friends or colleagues. We've made a concerted effort to hire people who reflect the communities in which we operate.”

Oftentimes, that may also mean hiring people without traditional backgrounds in biotech. While she has a wealth of human resources experience, even Angelini herself came to BioCryst from outside of the biotech industry.

Hiring good people has led BioCryst to have strong female representation at every level, all the way up to the board of directors. In fact, more than half of the company’s employees are women. For Angelini and Barnes, their leadership positions have granted them the opportunity to mentor women and men looking to build their careers.

“I have hired some amazing women — in fact over half of my team is women, and supporting their growth is a high priority for me at this point in my career. It’s equally important to make sure that we are creating paths and opportunities for those who may not have had access to resources for professional development,” said Barnes. “Coaching great leaders, creating new opportunities and fostering growth for our employees is especially critical to our success, and the leadership team at BioCryst embraces this responsibility each day.”

Barnes encourages women and others who are interested in leadership positions to pursue classes and mentorships that can help them hone their skills. The team at BioCryst continues to identify and support pathways to leadership through professional development programs, self-paced online courses and its internship program.

As the company continues to grow on the heels of recently launching its first commercial drug for a rare disease, Angelini and her team are focused on recruiting high-quality talent here in the Triangle and around the world.

“When I joined BioCryst, we were an H.R. department of two, and we're now a team of 15. I'm really proud of the team that we've built, and it goes back to hiring people who are experienced, bright and care a lot, regardless of where they’ve worked in the past,” said Angelini. “The people at this company are so eager to help one another, whether through a casual conversation or a formal leadership development program. I’ve been incredibly fortunate to have great mentors throughout my career, and I feel it's important to continue this cycle of mentorship for our next generation of leaders.”

This article was written for our sponsor, BioCryst Pharmaceuticals.


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