Why science needs women and men: International Innovation

 

Originally published on International Innovation

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Gender equality and diversity is integral to scientific excellence, says Dr Jim Smith, Director of Research at the Francis Crick Institute and Deputy Chief Executive and Chief of Strategy at the Medical Research Council, which is why men should also be championing the issue.

 

You are responsible for gender diversity at the Francis Crick Institute. Can you tell me how you became a ‘champion’ for gender equality? Is this an issue that has always been close to your heart?

I put myself forward for the role. Like most people, I want men and women to have the same opportunities in life and there should be nothing that gets in the way of that. Secondly, from the perspective of science, we know we lose women from science as the career pathway moves on. About 50 per cent of those working on PhDs are women, and the percentage is about the same for postdocs, but when you get to group leader positions, the number of women plummets. That’s wrong. It means that women who might want to work in science are missing out on working in science.

Men and women are equally good at science, and we’re losing some of our best scientists if women are leaving the profession. I don’t want that to happen. Science is the poorer for the fact that we are losing women at the rate we are. Achieving equality is good for science and we don’t want to lose our best scientists simply because they happen to be women. Also I have a daughter, so, naturally, I want the best for her.

There are also two other issues that need careful consideration: one is ethnicity. The other is lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT+). If you look at the group leaders throughout science – in the UK certainly – you’ll find that white people are clearly in the majority. The message I have is that science, and all careers, must be accessible to whoever wants to do it. And that’s my bottom line – accessibility.

Read the full interview

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