We’ve still got a long way to go in supporting women in science and medicine. Nationwide, only 20 percent of assistant professors in STEM and medical colleges are women. And pay inequity is alive and well; A recent study of New England researchers found that male scientists received more than 2.5 times the startup funding than their female counterparts did.
We’re committed to moving in the right direction through inclusive hiring committees, mentoring programs, pay equity report cards and recognition:
Role Models Wanted
If you can’t see it, you can’t be it. Impactful role models for women are other women, like themselves, who have successfully overcome gender-related barriers. If you want more women in leadership positions then you need to already have women in leadership positions at every level. Also, by increasing the visibility of women in leadership, you provide role models for the next generation.
When it comes to mentors, more is always better than none. Mentors can be found through formal programs, such as the NIH’s BIRCWH and WRHR or the University of Utah’s VPCAT programs, or informal networking events. Mentors can be assigned by the department or found by the researcher herself. It is helpful for newly hired faculty to be assigned a mentor by their department until they have developed their own campus networks. Male mentors can show female researchers how to succeed in academia while female mentors can show them how to survive; both perspectives are helpful.
We Need a Little Help Here
Female junior faculty cannot do research at an academic medical center without institutional and departmental support. Departments must show that they value research and allow faculty protected time to do their research. Having infrastructure within the department to provide administrative and grant support, such as the OBGYN Research Network at the University of Utah, can benefit all researchers.
Junior faculty also have different needs based on their years of employment. Newly hired faculty need assistance setting up their research programs while Year 3-5 faculty need help sustaining their research programs. Academic medical centers should tailor their support to address issues at each phase. Specific support needs that institutions can address are:
Stop Trying to Fix the Women
There are still subconscious biases, from men and women, which impact the ability of women to be successful researchers. For academic medical centers to increase the number of female researchers, there needs to be a culture change. We need to stop thinking of female researchers in relation to male researchers and start thinking of women as female researchers in their own right. There needs to be a recognition of the inherent value of having both genders, and their different perspectives, at an institution.
Read about 12 of our brightest young investigators–who just happen to be women–making incredible discoveries.