Women and Minorities Are the Majority of New Board Seats for the First Time

From Bloomberg

Women and people of color were picked for a majority of open S&P 500 board seats this year for the first time, due in part to pressure from investors to improve gender and racial disparities.

“It’s a step in the right direction, for sure, and it’s the first time we’ve gone over 50 percent,” said Julie Daum, who heads the North American board practice for executive recruiter Spencer Stuart, which did the survey. “Boards are looking for people who are younger and with different skill sets and that does open the boardroom for more women and minorities.”

Of 397 independent director slots open in the 2017 proxy season, 36 percent went to women and 20 percent to minorities, according to Spencer Stuart, which has tallied boardroom demographics for 30 years. While the tally includes most board seats, it leaves out executives who are also directors of their companies. Combined, women and minorities made up 50.1 percent of the new board members, compared with 42 percent last year, the data showed.

Investors including BlackRock Inc. and State Street Global Advisors this year  boards to add more women and minority candidates by voting against hundreds of directors at companies perceived as not taking sufficient steps to improve diversity. In addition, growing claims of sexual harassment against prominent business leaders have increased the focus on putting more women in positions of power to avoid conditions that lead to a hostile workplace.

Even with the gains, the low rate of turnover on corporate boards makes progress slow. Fewer than one seat on each S&P 500 board, on average, changed hands last year. With so few openings, women overall crept up to 22 percent from 21 percent of board representation in 2016 and minority directors rose to 17 percent from 16 percent, Spencer Stuart said. The percentage of Hispanic directors fell to 4.3 percent this year from 4.6 percent last year as black and Asian percentages rose slightly.

Click to read more on how Wall Street has pushed for diversity.

Directors may be reluctant to leave because they’re well paid. Average director compensation rose 1 percent to $288,909 this year. That compares to the U.S. median income of less than $60,000 a year. Also, for the first time, more than half of boards with a mandatory retirement age have set the limit at older than 73 on average, giving directors more time to serve in the future.

Story: Diversity Sounds Great Until Companies Are Asked to Show It

Boards also still prioritize candidates who have been a CEO or a director at another company, putting women and minorities at a disadvantage because they’re significantly under-represented in those roles, according to a survey this year by Deloitte.

Only 16 percent of the 300 directors surveyed by Deloitte said the lack of diversity among candidates was a top recruiting challenge. On the other hand, more than 90 percent said greater diversity is a priority and would improve the performance of their companies.

“There’s still just very little turnover, so even though the percentage of new directors that are younger and that are diverse has gone up, it’s off a low base,” Daum said. “There’s a high degree of interest in diversity, but it’s still very slow change.”

We are hiring!

Over the past year, CSweetener has grown faster than we’d expected or hoped, and to say we’re thrilled would be an understatement.  The good news: we’re expanding.  CSweetener is looking for either an Executive Director or VP of Market Development, depending on candidate interest and qualifications. The position provides an amazing opportunity for an experienced and successful leader to take the helm of an organization poised for growth and mission impact and to be out in front representing CSweetener to the HealthCare marketplace. If you know someone who might be interested, please have them contact us. 

MedCity News: How CSweetener is helping women healthcare leaders succeed



A 2017 study of 177 publicly-listed biotech companies found women hold just 1 in 10 board seats. And 2012 research from Rock Health showed women make up 4 percent of healthcare company CEOs.

CSweetener, a Mill Valley, California-based nonprofit company, wants to change that.

The organization, which launched in September 2016, was founded by Lisa Suennen and Lisa Serwin, the latter of whom will be speaking on a diversity in healthcare panel at MedCity INVEST in May. 

In a recent phone interview, Suennen explained the impetus behind the business. As part of her Aspen Institute Health Innovators Fellowship, she was tasked with creating something that advanced the field of healthcare.

While brainstorming and catching up on emails, Suennen noticed that she typically gets between 10 and 20 requests for advice from women each week. Wouldn’t it be nice, she thought, if there were a Match.com for healthcare that would pair women with established male and female mentors?

So that’s what she and Serwin developed with CSweetener.

As part of the matchmaking process, female mentees sign up and must be approved to join. Candidates have to be C-suite or in an equivalent role (such as vice president). Once accepted, they pay a $250 fee and are matched with a mentor based on their personality and availability. With their membership, mentees gain 12 sessions per year, which can be with the same mentor or different mentors.

Mentors have to be experienced healthcare executives who are talented at giving advice. They don’t pay a fee, but must commit at least one hour per month to speaking with mentees.

Pairings can contact each other through the phone and video capabilities in the app so they don’t have to exchange personal information if they don’t want to. They can also meet in person if desired.

After the initial sessions, mentors and mentees can decide if they’re the right fit for each other before moving forward with additional meetings.

Suennen said CSweetener currently has a couple hundred mentees and a couple hundred mentors. Some companies have even started to sponsor mentees and pay the $250 fee.

“It’s beginning to pick up and spread,” Suennen said. “People have been loving it and really enjoying the connections.”

Chicago-based ExplORer Surgical cofounder and CEO Jennifer Fried is one such mentee. Through CSweetener, she met Ned Scheetz, managing partner of Aphelion Capital and now ExplORer Surgical’s lead investor. He has also joined the startup’s board of directors.

“It’s been hugely helpful,” Fried said in a phone conversation.

The primary benefit of the program, Fried added, is access to experts in the field.

“They have an interesting set of senior folks who have signed up for this,” she said. “When it’s structured like this, it doesn’t feel as high stakes as ‘I’m coming in to pitch you my company.'”

For Suennen, part of what sets CSweetener apart is that it’s focused on women executives rather than young women who are new to the field. It’s also crucial that the organization pairs mentees with both female and male mentors.

“Our general view of the world is that women talking to women is an echo chamber,” Suennen said. It’s challenging to make progress if all stakeholders (regardless of gender) aren’t involved.

The ultimate goal of CSweetener isn’t to create a monster company. Instead, it’s fairly straightforward.

“I think my goal is pretty simple: just to help women succeed faster and better,” Suennen said.

New Survey Highlights “Lethargic Pace” of Healthcare Gender Equity

Article from Alex Lash at Xconomy To close the healthcare and life sciences gender gap, there have been programs to move women into the boardroom. People are building mentoring networks. And there have been public pledges to do better.

But women in the industry aren’t optimistic about big changes coming soon, according to a new report and survey from digital healthcare investment firm Rock Health. The San Francisco firm, which also issues reports and advocates for the growing sector at the intersection of health, data science, and mobile communication, says it surveyed more than 300 women for its annual gender diversity report.

More than 45 percent of respondents believe it will take 25 years or more to reach gender parity in the workplace, and 16 percent say it will never happen. Only 7.5 percent said they could see parity happening in the next five years.

Eighty percent of American healthcare workers are women. But from Fortune 500 boardrooms to the venture investors fueling cutting-edge startups, women are conspicuously rare in leadership roles. According to the report, there are no female CEOs among the Fortune 500 health companies, which include drug makers, distributors, insurers, and laboratory test firms.

Elsewhere at the top, 22.1 percent of Fortune 500 board members are women—slightly higher than the Fortune 500 overall (20.2 percent). But as in the private and public biotech sectors, which the recruitment firm Liftstream has surveyed in recent years, there seems to be little improvement. “At this rate,” writes Halle Tecco, Rock Health founder emeritus, “we won’t reach 50/50 gender parity on healthcare boards until 2049.” That timeline jibes with Liftstream’s 2017 report on public biotech firms.

At the other end of the spectrum, Rock Health dug into the sector it knows best: digital health startups and the investors who fund them. Those data are mixed. On the positive side, new startups, a tiny sliver of the overall healthcare landscape, have a relatively high number of women CEOs, at 24 percent. (Rock Health counted firms founded in 2016 with at least $2 million in funding.) That’s more than double the total of digital health firms funded since 2011, which have nearly 10 percent women in the top executive seat.

But the positive trend line doesn’t apply to digital health investors—who poured more money into the sector through the first three quarters of this year than in any other full year on record. Of the 131 venture firms that have made five or more bets in the digital health space, women comprise 10.9 percent of partners, a drop from the 11.4 percent Rock Health tallied in 2015. And 61 percent of these firms have no female partners at all.

Women comprise about half of the rank and file in biotech. In healthcare overall, 80 percent of employees are women. Many diversity efforts are focused at the top of the corporate pyramid. For example, a board-training program that began inside Biogen (NASDAQ: BIIB) is now open to all. It has capacity for about 20 women a year.

To build personal and professional ties, venture veteran Lisa Suennen launched a mentor network called C-Sweetener last year. She wants it to be a “Match.com for mentors,” with women signing up to connect with experienced life science veterans—both men and women—who have C-suite experience.

Asked about Rock Health’s numbers showing a relative boom of women CEOs in digital health, Suennen said she had not noticed the trend, but she would be thrilled if it’s true. “Perhaps because these new companies deal so much in patient empathy, communication and behavior change, they lend themselves to a more balanced gender sensibility,” Suennen said.

Getting to gender equality starts with realizing how far we have to go

McKinsey's 2017 Women in the Workplace Report is Out.

Women remain underrepresented at every level in corporate America, despite earning more college degrees than men for thirty years and counting. There is a pressing need to do more, and most organizations realize this: company commitment to gender diversity is at an all-time high for the third year in a row.

Despite this commitment, progress continues to be too slow—and may even be stalling. One of the most powerful reasons for this is a simple one: we have blind spots when it comes to diversity, and we can’t solve problems that we don’t see or understand clearly.

About the Study

Women in the Workplace 2017 is a comprehensive study of the state of women in corporate America. This research is part of a long-term partnership between LeanIn.Org and McKinsey & Company to give organizations the information they need to promote women’s leadership and foster gender equality.

This year 222 companies employing more than 12 million people shared their pipeline data and completed a survey of HR practices. In addition, more than 70,000 employees completed a survey designed to explore their experiences regarding gender, opportunity, career, and work-life issues. To our knowledge, this makes Women in the Workplace the largest study of its kind.

Aiming for the C-Suite?

Being smart, accomplished and talented is not enough to get to the C-Suite. As with any goal, if the C-Suite is where you want to be, you need a plan.  And then you need to get the best resources to help you implement your plan.

We recently sat down with Robin Toft, CEO of The Toft Group, an Executive Search firm specializing in placing C-Level executives in the Life Sciences throughout the United States.  After many years in executive search, Robin has seen the differences between how men and women navigate their career paths.  Robin shared with us what she considers the top resources every professional needs to move into the C-Suite and also shared some observations of how men and women navigate this path differently.

No. 1  Get a Mentor

These are people who are in the roles you want, who can share their experiences with you, provide feedback and direction.  Robin mentioned that mentors aren’t just for folks aspiring to be in the C-Suite, but for those who have reached that goal and want to stay relevant, continue to reach higher and share practices.

In many industries men are in the majority of the leadership roles, so having their insight can be invaluable.  Likewise, having a sponsor (a mentor who advocates for you) can make a difference in whether or not you are recognized for a role you want by giving you exposure to top management, putting you on projects that showcase your abilities, and helping you get recognition for the value you bring the organization.

Read more here.

Join CSweetener and Rock Health

SF friends! Join Rock Health and us on August 14 for a discussion on improving gender diversity. Sign up today! Event:

Much of the conversation around promoting women leadership in healthcare has been just that—conversation. To move from dialogue to action, we’re bringing both women and men to the table to hear what has and hasn’t worked in taking steps to improve gender diversity in leadership. Join Rock Health and CSweetener as we sit down and dive in with leaders who have done this well within their respective organizations.

This time, we're trying something a little bit different—attendees are encouraged to bring a plus-one (or more!) male colleague, boss, or executive to this discussion, aiming to equip all parties involved with the tools they need to go back to their organizations and effect change from within.

Light refreshments will be served. The entrance to the Rock Health office is on 3rd Street.


Sean Duffy, Co-founder and CEO, Omada Health

Christine Lemke, President, Evidation Health

Lisa Suennen, Managing Director, GE Ventures and Co-founder, CSweetener

Frank Williams, Co-founder and CEO, Evolent Health

Moderator: Megan Zweig, Director of Research, Rock Health


5:30-6:00pm Networking and refreshments

6:00-6:45pm Panel

6:45-7:30 Networking


Welcome American Medical Women's Association!

We are delighted that the AMWA is partnering with CSweetener to offer mentors and mentoring to its senior healthcare members.  The AMW is comprised of physicians, residents, health care professionals, and supporters.  The AMWA is the oldest multispecialty organization dedicated to advancing women in medicine and improving women’s health.  We can't wait to get this relationship started.

Keeping women in the talent pipeline

ARTICLE WRITTEN BY:  Sally Blount, Dean, Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University  Getting more women to the C-Sute is important

If you believe, as I do, that getting more women to the “C-suite” and the board table is important, then we need more insight. First, we need to gain a greater understanding of why high-potential women do not choose to enter business at the same rates as their male peers. Second, for those who do choose to enter, we need to understand why these professional women exit at greater rates than do professional men. With this insight in hand, we can create new programs and pathways for supporting women across all phases of their careers.

No silver bullet

While there is no silver bullet, a growing body of evidence suggests that there are three key decision points, or “pivot points,” where women face issues that are unique biologically and culturally. These pivot points introduce predictable stressors into adult women’s lives and mean that, on average, high-potential women experience career choices, goals, and trade-offs differently than do high-potential men with similar education and experience. The three pivot points are outlined below.


Keep reading here: https://qz.com/1024078/getting-more-women-into-the-c-suite-means-keeping-them-in-the-talent-pipeline/

Proving the ROI of Global Diversity and Inclusion Efforts

Just the Facts:

Cold, hard data is hard to ignore. No matter where in the world, when you can credibly show a business leader that current conditions are not going to take them where they need to go, you create in that leader a partner to drive change. Measurements enable you to create accountability and establish a baseline by which success or opportunities for improvement can be quanti ed. They also give you the ability to potentially quantify the value to be derived from diversity and inclusion as you raise the visibility of changing demographic issues and create links between them and overall business performance.

Stock Performance:

Greater diversity leads to nancial growth. When individuals are valued and empowered to be their best selves, tangible results can be seen in the bottom line. In a study of 506 U.S.-based businesses, each 1 percent increase in the rate of gender diversity resulted in an approximately 3 percent increase in sales revenues, up to the rate represented in the relevant population.10 Top-listed European companies with gender diversity in management achieved higher than average stock performance—64 percent versus 47 percent.11.

Read more here: http://www.cisco.com/c/dam/en_us/about/ac49/ac55/docs/Global_Diversity_Primer_Cisco_Chapter.pdf

Welcome Evolve Women

Evolve Women provides a platform of educational and developmental programs for women through all stages of a career lifecycle. The organization began with a specific focus on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) and provides programming to encourage and promote more women towards working in and to support women working within the STEM areas in the workforce. Evolve Women will also includes entrepreneurship and health/healthcare issues for women in the workforce.

A state-by-state breakdown of the striking gender gap in doctors’ pay

If you’re a doctor in Charlotte, N.C., you’re ideally situated to benefit from the highest pay in the health care business. There’s just one catch: If you want that big money, you can’t be a woman.

That’s because the city also has the biggest gender wage gap in the nation. Female physicians in Charlotte make an average of 33 percent less than their male counterparts, a difference of $125,000 per year, according to a new report by the social media site Doximity.

Read more here.

Welcome Springboard Alumnae!

We are thrilled to announce a new partnership with Springboard Enterprises. CSweetener is offering two free mentoring sessions (two credits) to alumnae of Springboard's Healthcare Accelerator Programs for use on CSweetener’s mentoring site. If you enjoy your experience, you are welcome to join CSweetener for a $250 tax-deductible donation (12 credits for one year). CSweetner is a not-for-profit organization.

To receive your two free credits, please sign up on CSweeteners website site (http://www.csweetener.org/find-a-mentor) and use the code "Springboard". Once CSweetener receives your email, you will be issued an invitation into the platform with two credits for two months.

We look forward to mentoring you!


CSweetener in Xcomony!

Amid Gender Gap Talk, Mentor Network Emerges For Women In Health, Bio

Alex Lash | Xconomy

It’s been more than a year since an infamous party with hired models in cocktail dresses captured the biotech community’s attention at the 2016 J.P. Morgan conference.

There has been plenty of talk since about closing biotech’s notable gender gap. At this year’s J.P Morgan conference, for example, a group of 100 life science executives and others pledged to follow a list of gender diversity “best practices.”

There has also been some action. Launched last fall, a nonprofit mentoring program for women in healthcare and biotech has already signed up about 100 women, according to its founder.

The group, called CSweetener, is meant as a boost for women who are nearing the executive level. It is the brainchild of life sciences investor Lisa Suennen, who is based in the San Francisco Bay Area and publishes a popular industry blog and podcast. Suennen and cofounder Lisa Serwin have cobbled together $125,000 in donations, grants, and sponsorships to commission a software platform that could be what Suennen calls a “Match.com for mentors.” Because of her high profile, she says she receives frequent requests from women executives for help and advice. “If I said yes to everyone, I wouldn’t have time to work,” she says. “So I thought, ‘What if I can outsource this problem?'”

Finish reading here!

Welcome to Fenwick & West, LLP

Lisa and I are thrilled to announce Fenwick & West as a new CSweetener sponsor.  For more than four decades, Fenwick & West has helped some of the world’s most recognized companies become, and remain, market leaders. From emerging enterprises to large public corporations, their clients are leaders in the technology, life sciences and cleantech sectors and are fundamentally changing the world through rapid innovation. Having worked alongside such progressive and cutting edge companies for so long, their culture has come to reflect the entrepreneurial spirit of our client base. Unlike traditional law firms, they move at their clients’ speed and have earned the reputation as a go-to law firm for growing companies that need insightful, strategic counsel to help tackle the challenging issues that arise when the law cannot keep up with their pace of innovation.

We are proud to add Michael Esquivel and Dawn Belt as our first two Fenwick attorney mentors and are delighted to be able to offer first rate legal mentorship through them.

Watch Michael discuss Two Guiding Legal Principles for Startups here: https://www.fenwick.com/Videos/Pages/Two-Guiding-Legal-Principles-for-Startups.aspx.

Transforming the C-suite: Developing and Advancing Women Leaders

Throughout history, successful companies, thriving economies and prosperous communities have been characterized by their openness to diverse ideas and their commitment to inclusion.

Yet despite progress in many areas, the evidence shows that there is much more work to be done, particularly in achieving true gender parity in all levels of business. While it is widely accepted today that the full inclusion of women executives improves a company’s financial performance, and a majority of organizations have a formal senior leadership inclusion initiative in place, the data shows that the number of women in these positions is still significantly low.

FORTUNE Knowledge Group, with sponsorship from Royal Bank of Canada, developed this study to reinforce the importance of female advancement by identifying the barriers in achieving gender parity and uncovering solutions to accomplish this goal.

The analysis in this study unearthed correlations between the profitability and revenue growth of companies that have achieved higher levels of gender diversity in senior positions. The findings in this paper outline six recommended practices to help address the low level of gender parity in major corporations.



CSweetener Press Release

CSWEETENER.ORG EXECUTIVE WOMEN’S MENTORING NETWORK LAUNCHES WITH THE AIM TO EVOLVE THE HEALTHCARE C-SUITE SAN FRANCISCO, Feb. 7, 2017 / / -- CSweetener.org launched its mentoring network this week, with the goal of pairing women leaders in or nearing the c-suite with top industry female and male mentors, in an effort to make women more successful as c-suite leaders.  While the healthcare industry recognizes the importance of diversity and female contribution, it lags behind other industries in terms of promoting diversity and female leadership among its ranks.

“The numbers are telling: Only 34 percent of executives at the top 100 hospitals are female, and only 6 percent of CEOs funded at venture-backed healthcare companies are women.  Fewer than 10 percent of healthcare venture partners are women,” points out Lisa Suennen, co-founder of CSweetener and Managing Director of GE Healthcare Corporate Ventures.  “It is well known that an effective, experienced mentor can make a difference in the sustainable success of executives. CSweetener is committed to finding and connecting great mentors with tomorrow’s female leaders, to advance diversity across the board in healthcare in operations, finance, clinical and scientific roles.”

CSweetener has been highly anticipated by healthcare executives looking for an easier way to meet, engage and help one another succeed. “CSweetener has already been met with exceptionally positive feedback,” says Lisa Serwin, co-Founder and Executive Director.  “We have a remarkably high quality set of mentors who have strong executive experience and wish to give back with their time and advice.   Dozens of qualified mentees have enrolled and are beginning to match with mentors.  There is a hunger among experienced executives and entrepreneurs eager to engage in mentoring relationships to help advance the next generation of female leaders and we are gratified at the response.”

CSweetener’s software technology allows mentors and mentees to be matched according to interest areas, professional skills and personality attributes.  Mentees, all of whom are women in close proximity to the C-Suite or equivalent roles, can select from mentors with whom they are matched by the system.  Mentors are both women and men, as both genders are vitally important in advancing the role of women in senior leadership positions.  CSweetener is intended to remove the friction from the current, largely random, system of identifying mentors, particularly for entrepreneurs outside large organizations.  The match-finder and integrated video conferencing feature means limits on geography are removed.  Through CSweetener, tomorrow’s female leaders have access to highly experienced mentors, who are generally otherwise unavailable.

Furthermore, CSweetener offers mentees from larger corporations who prefer privacy not generally afforded within their own large company-sponsored mentoring programs.

Mentees pay a nominal annual fee to participate and there is no cost to mentors.  CSweetener had its initial launch in the San Francisco Bay Area and has plans to spread across the country as adoption grows.

Darryl Robinson, Executive Vice President and Chief Human Resources Officer, Dignity Health, offered his personal support and that of the organization because “positive mentor-mentee relationships promote personal and professional growth. The CSweetner philosophy aligns closely with Dignity Health’s values of collaboration and excellence.”

About CSweetener.org

Lisa Suennen and Lisa Serwin, both healthcare industry veterans, founded CSweetener after observing that female entrepreneurs are eager for mentorship and support from those with experience and success in the healthcare market.  An outgrowth of Suennen’s Aspen Institute Health Innovation Fellowship project, CSweetener was founded in 2016 in order to advance the healthcare industry and help create a level playing field that will enable the best entrepreneurs, regardless of gender, to win. CSweetener has received the sponsorship and support of such leading healthcare companies as GE Ventures, Dignity Health, Welltok, 7Wire Ventures, Summation Ventures, Grand Rounds, Avia Health Innovation, MedTechWomen, Jiff, Abundant Venture Partners, Hopelab, Owned Outcomes, a grant from the California Healthcare Foundation and a variety of angel contributors. The company is headquartered in Mill Valley, California and is a 501c3.

For more information, visit www.csweetener.org or contact us.

Media Contact:

Lisa Suennen