gender diversity in STEM research – fellowships helping to make a difference.

This is a guest post from Suzy Firkin, an Associate Consultant for WISE on such topics as gender diversity, coaching and mentoring. WISE helps organisations to inspire women and girls to pursue STEM subjects as pathways to exciting and fulfilling careers. Their aim is to get 1 million more women into the STEM sector by 2020, boosting the talent pool to drive economic growth. 

Wise Logo Just recently research Fellowships have been tapping at my consciousness and I felt compelled to write a line or two about two excellent schemes that really aim to make a difference to the diversity of the STEM academic community.

At the recent WISE Awards Ceremony I was privileged to meet Dr Katie Perry of the Daphne Jackson Trust. (Daphne Jackson was the first female physics professor in the UK). Katie was being recognised at the ceremony for her inspirational leadership of the trust who offer unique fellowships designed to return scientists, technologists, engineers and mathematicians, who have had a career break of more than two years for family, caring or health reasons, back to research. During the last 10 years the Daphne Jackson trust has helped 250 STEM researchers return to their careers; 9 out of 10 have been women.

Sheffield’s own Professor Elena Rodriguez-Falcon, the first Director for Women in Engineering was also Highly Commended at the WISE Awards for her work in creating Sheffield’s Women in Engineering Network.

Another funding scheme bearing the name of an influential female scientist – the Royal Society’s Dorothy Hodgkin Fellowship (Dorothy Hodgkin won the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 1964) – is currently open to applications from outstanding researchers in the early stages of their career who require a flexible working pattern due to personal circumstances such as health, parenting or caring. Female applicants are particularly encouraged and five fellowships are awarded each year.

Interestingly, both schemes recognise the importance of support mechanisms such as mentoring and sponsorship to ensure that fellows flourish in the workplace.

It is important to stress that both of these schemes are open to men and women but with their family friendly ethos and championing of gender diversity in the workplace they aim to make a real difference in the academic arena, just as their famous female namesakes once did.

Whilst women are still less likely than men to progress from first degree to further research based study and the percentage of total female postgraduates across all sciences has remained static at 29% from 2012 to 2013, we do see some signs of progress in engineering and technology where statistics show an increase from 20.2 to 23.2% over the same two years – reason to be optimistic that the efforts of the Daphne Jackson Trust and the Dorothy Hodgkin Fellowship can make a difference.

For more gender diversity boosting grants and funding visit the WISE funding pages.



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