A Place at the Bench: Women in Biomedical Research

Women in Biomedical Research

In 2009, the Burroughs Wellcome Fund commissioned a series of articles by science writer Marla Broadfoot to look at the landscape for women in the biomedical sciences. Broadfoot was given free range to explore the subject area, and the articles were published in the Fund’s FOCUS newsletter. The first article appeared in July 2009 and was circulated through social media. Given the popularity of the articles, it was decided to compile them in the hope that they would inspire more thought and discussion.

The Burroughs Wellcome Fund has long supported the careers of women scientists and continues to strive in its program areas to create a supportive environment.

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Author Preface

In many academic disciplines the numbers of women may be finally reaching those of men, but the ranks in science and engineering are still a long way from displaying gender equity. This disparity has implications not only in terms of social justice, but also for the quality of science pursued in this country.

Diane Halpern, one of the many researchers quoted in these pages, stressed that it is essential that people talk about the rhetoric of choice, recognizing that whether women choose to stay in science is shaped in many ways by the confines of the society in which we live. The contributions of women continue to be undervalued, by both men and women alike. And until there are some good institutional programs to keep women doing research at universities and institutes, flooding the pipeline at the front end will never be enough.

This series examines some of the unique challenges faced by women in science, such as lack of mentoring, the biological clock and unconscious institutional bias, and will explore possible solutions to retain more talent in this important field.