Women in Science: Everyone WinS

Women science, design by Joana Carvalho © IGC

Last Thursday (11th February) we skipped lunch to celebrate the International day of girls and women in science with top Portuguese female scientists, hear about their careers and projects and reflect on the disparities we still see. 

Our conclusion: Women in Science, everyone WinS! We left inspired and uplifted!

You can re-play the event here and read more about it in this news article from PUBLICO (EN version, PT version).  

Time was short to answer all questions and explore more solutions to bring science to girls and women to science-related jobs. So we decided to share some more thoughts here; while doing some research we found very interesting initiatives and ideas!!  

Give me the data!    

Researchers – women and men - like data and there is tons of it showing that way more needs to be done to increase women’s participation and visibility in science. Prof Helena Pereira, from the Portuguese research funding agency Fundação para a Ciência e a Tecnologia shared some of it. For example, that the proportion of women researchers in Portugal is above the EU average (43% vs. 34%) but that a clear scissor effect can be seen (55.8% junior research contracts awarded to women vs 20% of coordinator research contracts).  We collected some more data here -> we call it Women in Science databites. Don’t expect comprehensiveness, we just thought we let the numbers speak for themselves. 

Things we’ve heard and seen 

Seriously inspiring actions and initiatives, utterly simple in most cases that we have heard during our conversations last week and our errands in this field! Again, do not expect comprehensiveness and we are happy to include other actions and cool examples you are aware of (jrc-semestre-pt@ec.europa.eu)!  

  • Elevate women’s voices - acknowledge and amplify their ideas (everywhere… comment them at meetings, with your friends and family when reading or watching the news, in any conversation!) 

  • Organise or pressure for gender balanced panels in conferences; some men refuse to speak in non-balanced panels (manels!)

  • Do what you can in your sphere – can you strive for a gender balanced team? 

  • Include men in the discussion – they are part of the equation and we need to understand the impacts of gender-balance on them.  

  • Speak the right language - Move from “gender blind” to “gender bilingual”.  Press for a shift in culture, embrace gender differences, don’t deny them. 

  • If you have a family, start with gender balance at home: parenting (and other forms of care) is a shared issue. Shared parental leave and parity at home are crucial for parity at work.   

  • Praise your partner – man or woman – for shared parenting and home parity! It may be a no-brainer to you, but it isn’t yet for others. 

  • Have you heard of the multi-tasker 6C woman scientist as a branding campaign? Women scientists embrace Creativity, Curiosity and Critical thinking, they Collaborate, Communicate and Confront. And then, there are all the other Cs often tasked to women scientists like Cooking, Cleaning, Children...

Some cool examples we came across 

  • Operation 50-50, is a tool that gives journalists and editors easy access to nearly 100 female specialists in clinical roles  

  • Wellcome, one of the biggest Science funders crowdsourced ideas to  improve research culture 

  • The creche at the JRC in Ispra is very close to the centre (you can go there to breastfeed for example) and there are also after school facilities so childcare is “sorted”.  

  • Doris Duke Charitable Foundation began the Fund to Retain Clinical Scientists to provide funds to early-career physician-scientists facing extraprofessional demands of caregiving. 80% of recipients are women. The Clinical Scientist Development Award changed the proposal language subtly, such as avoiding the word ‘innovative’ to describe research and instead using ‘never been done before’. Women now make up 53% of the applicant pool and have a 10% grant success rate.