Recommendations and Initiatives
At the meeting on April 6, the by-invitation Founding Board will analyze the issues, consider policy recommendations, and prioritize initiatives. A dinner for Founding Board members will take place April 5 in New York City.
“The collective brain power of this most illustrious board ensures that the Society will be successful in confronting the issues that disadvantage women in the sciences and help identify and implement innovative policies and commitments that ensure that the careers for women in the sciences are both productive and rewarding,” said Jo Handelsman, Ph.D., department of plant pathology, University of Wisconsin–Madison, and acting president of the Rosalind Franklin Society.
There is progress. Six of the thirteen NIH Director’s Pioneer Awards for 2005 were given to women. In 2004, Linda Buck was awarded a Nobel Prize, the seventh woman to have received an award in the category of physiology and medicine.
However, noted Ms. Liebert, women scientists are also ignored or given less consideration for many other prizes or invitations to join elite institutions and academies. There are still prevailing perceptions that women do not have the same talents and abilities as their male colleagues in industry as well as academia and government, she maintained.
“The leadership opportunities for women have not kept pace with those of men,” said Ms. Liebert. “For instance, there are very few biotech companies that have been started by women, and corporate boards also reflect this disparity.”
“I really don’t know why there is such a striking absence of women-started and/or women-led companies. Perhaps it is a result of the aggregate effects of other broad adverse circumstances,”adds Linda Powers, managing director and co-founder of Toucan Capital Fund II, L.P., a $120-million venture capital fund focused on seed and early-stage life science and advanced technology investments.
“For example, women scientists still receive disproportionately low portions of the grant monies awarded. Women also still seem to have a harder time getting published, especially in top journals and especially in regard to novel, paradigm-shifting (i.e., dogma-busting) discoveries—the kind that startups get built around. One can’t start or build a company without funding, and venture capitalists themselves may be contributing to the problem. VCs often look to fund on the basis of ‘names’ and profiles, which women scientists will be less likely to have for the reasons just cited.”
Within its purview, the Rosalind Franklin Society will also seek to educate the public and members of the press about the magnitude of the important research and outcomes that women have made, are making, and will continue to make to the biomedical sciences.
Mary Ann Liebert, Inc., has provided the funding and staff for the new Society.
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