Healthcare industry still lacks women at the top

Anna Protopapas is a rarity in the corporate world. Not only is she one of a small number of top-ranking women in the biopharmaceutical industry, but as executive vice-president of global business development at Takeda Pharmaceuticals, she is also one of only a few women at the top of a Japanese company.

Despite the large number of women in the healthcare field, it resembles other industries in its severe lack of women in high-level management jobs, according to the Healthcare Businesswomen’s Association.

Protopapas says healthcare suffers from the same issues as other industries. “It’s hard for a woman to have a career and family at the same time. It’s hard to juggle,” she told me recently.

Still, she is encouraged by the fact that women are represented in the healthcare industry in ever-increasing numbers, and she sees ripe opportunity for women in the field because of the qualities they bring to the table.

“I was attracted to healthcare because of the science, but also because of its mission to improve the outcome for patients,” Protopapas says. “I believe that is true for many women in the healthcare industry … We are an industry about talent and innovation. Women are often more perceptive. And they are often more patient about developing talent, and more nurturing, too.”

Her company, she says, is trying to do more to advance the careers of women. Tokyo-based Takeda is the largest pharmaceutical company in Japan and a global leader of its industry.

According to a survey by Toyo Keizai, the business publisher, women made up just 1.2 per cent of senior executives at Japanese listed companies in 2010. Six years ago, the country set a nonbinding goal that women would hold 30 per cent of leadership positions across most public and private industries by 2020.

“We’re sending high-potential women on leadership programmes, giving them rotations through international subsidiaries and giving them new mentors,” says Protopapas. “Despite the fact that in Japan there are not as many women in the ranks of senior management, Takada has made strong commitments to its women.”

This blog is no longer updated but it remains open as an archive.

The 'Women at the Top' blog is part of a series of online and print publications that focuses on women's achievements in business. With up-to-date news and incisive analysis, the blog will provoke discussion on the role of the world's most prominent businesswomen.

For more Women at the Top news, video interviews and other features, visit


About our bloggers

Liz Bolshaw

Liz Bolshaw is a business journalist and editor. She has been a successful book publisher, online editor, magazine editor and publisher.

She was launch editor of the Europe-wide online community Entrepreneur Country, has published magazines for PwC, 3i, dunhill and Bafta, and launched The Sharp Edge, a magazine for and about entrepreneurs, with Duncan Bannatyne. She is a regular contributor to Thomson Reuters’ Venture Capital Journal.

Her last project for the Financial Times was as editor of the paper’s Business Education magazine.

Rebecca Knight

Rebecca Knight is a freelance journalist based in Boston. She writes regularly for the FT on business education, entrepreneurship, and management.

Andrew Hill

Andrew Hill is an associate editor and the management editor of the FT. He was City editor of the FT and editor of the daily Lombard column on British business and finance from September 2006 to December 2010.

He was the FT’s financial editor from June 2005 to September 2006, with overall responsibility for coverage of companies and markets. Before becoming financial editor, he was the FT’s comment & analysis editor, in charge of the paper’s opinion and features pages.

From 1999 to 2003, he was the FT’s New York bureau chief. He joined the FT in 1988 and has also worked as foreign news editor, UK companies reporter and correspondent in Brussels and Milan.

Pino Bethencourt

Pino Bethencourt is a professor and leadership expert at IE Business School in Madrid. She is also an author and executive coach.

Lynda Gratton

Lynda Gratton is professor of management practice at London Business School.

Linda Tarr-Whelan

Linda Tarr-Whelan, former ambassador to the UN commission on the status of women, is a Demos distinguished senior fellow.