There are a number of professional networks in Australia for women working in different industries, for example, business, IT and law. Just like in these industries, there are gender inequalities within the sciences, including the health and medical research sector. Yet, there is no independent professional community bringing together women working in this field.
In academia, the disparities between genders increase with career progression, with fewer women holding senior scientific academic positions than men. Similarly, the National Health and Medical Research Council in Australia report that more than 50% of applicants for early career research fellowships are women, however women account for a very small proportion of applicants for their more senior fellowships.
So, it is evident that we are losing women from the health and medical research academic career pathway. What is even worse is that anecdotally, it seems we are not only losing many scientifically trained women (and some men!) from academia but from the health sciences sector altogether because of a perceived lack of skills and/or opportunities to transition into non-academic careers. We are effectively losing all that science know-how and passion, often after an investment of 8 years or more of tertiary education.
The current grant-based funding system, as well as cultural barriers within the field, contributes to these disparities. But this space seems to be changing (hooray!). Many peak bodies in Australia such as the National Health and Medical Research Council and the Australian Academy of Science have gender equity on the agenda. In addition, conversations around the need for people skilled in health sciences in non-academic roles are finally happening.
These top-down policy changes are important, but so are grassroots efforts to support, promote and inspire women working in health and medical research related fields. This is where Franklin Women hopes to contribute.
If you want more info on what is being done in the women in science space, we have compiled a great list of resources and readings in the members’ section of our website.