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Life Sciences Next Round in Battle About Gender Equality

A new lawsuit was filed against Synthetic Genomics (SGI) for gender discrimination. SGI was co-founded by J. Craig Venter who is famous for his research into the human genome. Teresa Spehar filed the suit asserting that the company was a “boy’s club” that routinely discriminated against women.

Specifically, Ms. Spehar alleged that men are paid more than women for substantially similar work and that the male executives belittled women, disparaged their contributions and that women are excluded from the major decision making within the company. Ms. Spehar joined the company in 2008 and was its first in-house lawyer. She also has a doctorate in pharmacology and molecular sciences. She has claimed that she was excluded from executive meetings about partnerships, deals, and decisions involving intellectual property. According to the suit, 2 out of 14 top executives within the company are women; 3 out of 13 senior directors are women; 2 of 10 directors are women; and 3 of 17 senior scientists are women. She claimed that she was fired from the company for complaining about the discriminatory treatment.

CEO Oliver Fetzer responded publicly by stating: “Discrimination because of gender goes against everything I stand for.” He did not respond to specific allegations contained in the complaint but asserted that the company will defend itself vigorously against the meritless claims in the suit. He also acknowledged the gap in the life sciences industry from women at the high levels. SGI has been committed to increasing its gender diversity.