How WCRI is advancing the next generation of women in science
Even though women have made tremendous progress towards closing the gender gap in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), they remain underrepresented at all levels in these fields. As we celebrate the International Day of Women and Girls in Science on February 11, we are reflecting on our role at Women’s College Research Institute (WCRI) in inspiring the next generation of female scientists.
The progress of women in health research, from entry to leadership positions, is often described as a leaky pipeline. Women, particularly those from marginalized populations, tend to drop off this career trajectory in greater numbers than men. Some of the barriers women may encounter while pursuing a career in research include time spent on family responsibilities, unconscious sex biases that limit opportunities and less institutional support compared to male counterparts.
As a leader in the health of women and sex and gender research, we know that diversity enhances excellence in research, supports equity for all and broadens the scope of health research to address health disparities across all populations. We also have a strong history of supporting women along their career path at WCRI, from early engagement to advancement in leadership and decision-making positions. WCRI is unique in that half of the appointed scientists are women and it is lead by a woman vice-president of research.
Another area of importance for WCRI is providing opportunities for mentorship and investing in the next generation of female scientists through our Summer Student Research Program. The program reaches out to undergraduate, graduate and health professional program students in the formative stages of their education who may be considering a career in research. Approximately 80 per cent of past students from the program were women, and in the 2019 call for applications 90 per cent identified as women or gender-diverse individuals. This great interest from women at the early stages of their health research careers is a strong indicator that WCRI is creating an environment where women feel that they will be supported in their pursuits to become leaders in science.