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New Report Authored by Deerfield Management Reveals Vast Gender Gap Across Venture-backed Healthcare Companies

“Gender Disparity Among Venture-backed Healthcare Companies and Their Investor Base” finds that less than 1 in 8 board roles at privately backed healthcare companies are held by women

One of Deerfield’s initiatives to increase diversity in healthcare, this study aims to hold healthcare companies and investors accountable and encourage female representation

NEW YORK--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Deerfield Management Company (Deerfield), a healthcare investment management firm focused on advancing healthcare through investment, information and philanthropy, today released “Gender Disparity Among Venture-backed Healthcare Companies and Their Investor Base,” a paper that analyzes the gender composition of healthcare companies’ corporate boards, as well as that of the investment teams finding, diligencing and mentoring these companies.

In an analysis of 140 healthcare companies that had raised substantial venture financing and published the identity of their board members on their corporate website, Deerfield found that:

  • 48.5% of companies had no female board members.
  • Women make up about 10% of board director roles in venture-backed healthcare companies.
  • Among the most active investment firms in the healthcare space, only about 20% of investment professionals are female.
  • Of the six organizations analyzed that have 50% or more female board membership, all but one are helmed by female CEOs.

The paper’s authors, Christine Livoti, Director at the Deerfield Institute at Deerfield and Leslie Henshaw, Partner on the Healthcare Services team at Deerfield, set out to understand the gender composition of venture-backed healthcare companies that operate in the industry subsectors in which Deerfield invests.

Most of the research on diversity in leadership focuses on public companies that are required to report their diversity data. As such, information on private healthcare companies’ board composition is largely unavailable to the public. Livoti and Henshaw established a proprietary database of healthcare companies in the therapeutics, medical devices and diagnostics, healthcare information technology and healthcare services subsectors to identify the gender composition of their corporate boards.

The paper also examines the gender composition of the top 50 healthcare investors, based on the number of healthcare transactions in which they participated. Overall, women make up only about 20% of the investment professionals in this group of firms, and even this modest percentage likely overestimates the proportion of senior female investment professionals relative to their junior counterparts.

“Deerfield sits at the intersection of healthcare and investing, two spheres in which women are vastly underrepresented,” said Leslie Henshaw, Partner at Deerfield and co-author of the paper. “The findings of our report are unsurprising, but still deeply disappointing. With this research, our goal is to help our peers understand the considerable gender imbalance on their own teams is having a direct impact on the board composition of the companies they fund, increasing the imperative to seek out diverse independent board members. We are committed to elevating female and marginalized leaders across the healthcare ecosystem, increasing equity and accessibility throughout an industry in which the role of women – as caregivers, decision makers and patients – is so pronounced.”

Given the outsized role that investors play in board seat allocation and placement, the gender diversity of investment firms cannot be ignored in the context of gender diversity of private company boards.

“While gender composition of public companies, or even a broader swath of private companies agnostic of sector has been examined before, uniquely we examined the gender composition of private healthcare companies’ leadership and their investors,” said Christine Livoti, Director at The Deerfield Institute and co-author of the study. “We hope these findings will serve as a wakeup call for private companies in our industry to examine the gender composition of their leadership and work harder to diversify and grow more equitably across all levels of their organizations.”

The paper’s findings aim to hold companies and investors accountable, encourage greater female representation and advance initiatives for investors to diversify the portfolio companies in which they invest.

“Gender Disparity Among Venture-backed Healthcare Companies and Their Investor Base” is one of Deerfield’s several initiatives to improve representation in the healthcare ecosystem. Deerfield oversees Break into the Boardroom, a program that was launched in 2016 to help promote greater representation of female healthcare executives on boards within the public, private, and non-profit sectors. Break into the Boardroom provides senior female healthcare executives with training and guidance intended to help them obtain their first board role.

In the coming months, a programmatic effort will take place at the Cure, a 12-story vertical innovations campus in New York City, to dive deeper on this topic.

About Deerfield

Deerfield is an investment management firm committed to advancing healthcare through investment, information and philanthropy. For more information, please visit

About Break Into the Boardroom

Break into the Boardroom aims to promote greater representation of female healthcare executives on boards within the public, private, and non-profit sectors. Break into the Boardroom was founded by Deerfield and Oxeon based on a shared belief that their organizations are uniquely positioned not only to cultivate new female board candidates but also to connect these women with concrete governance opportunities. Deerfield and Oxeon focus on identifying talent, cultivating companies, and deploying capital within the healthcare ecosystem. For more information, please visit


Erin Holin 917.232.0701

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Last Updated: 06-Apr-2021