Marking International Women's Day 2022

Meet the women in biomedical sciences striving for an equitable future.

Female leaders, researchers, alumni and students from the School of Biomedical Sciences have voiced their hopes for a more equitable and sustainable future.

The Head of School, Professor Jenny Wilkinson-Berka, leads the way in highlighting how the School is supporting women in biomedical sciences.

“On the eve of International Women’s Day, we are looking for a new climate in science, biomedicine and medical research. And, we know, forging a gender equal world in medical science is a complex task,” she says.

“However, as we celebrate women’s achievements and raise awareness for equality this week, I welcome a recent UNESCO Science Report that shows there are signs women are inching closer to parity in science.”

In higher education, women now account for 45-55 per cent of graduating bachelor’s and master’s science degrees globally. While women make up 33 per cent of researchers, up from 28 per cent in 2013, according to the report.

“Importantly, we are seeing similar trends at the School with 53 per cent of alumni being female. We also have 234 female researchers, 150 of our 271 PhD candidates are female and 139 out of 160 professional staff employed under the School and its Departments are female," Prof Wilkinson-Berka says.

Gender equity for a sustainable tomorrow

The School supports the career development and momentum of female researchers through a variety of grants.

Professor Leann Tilley, of the Department of Biochemistry and Pharmacology, established the Georgina Sweet Awards for Women in Quantitative Biomedical Science in 2016, as part of her Australian Research Council Laureate Fellowship.

The School also introduced the MJ Gething Gender Equality Award in 2019 to help early career researchers continue career momentum while also having significant caring responsibilities.

Last year, the $100,000 annual Fabienne Mackay Award was introduced to help one or more high performing, independent researchers to maintain research momentum following the birth or adoption of a child.

Prof Wilkinson-Berka concludes: “There is always more that can be done. For Australian medical research, the paucity of women at senior levels will not change unless we actively implement change, starting with more equitable research funding outcomes.

“In the absence of pro-active approaches, the status quo will be maintained.”