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Two female researchers in Queensland have been awarded strategic grants as a step forward in closing the research and academic gender gap.
The 2019 winners of Mater Research Strategic Grants for Outstanding Women were awarded to Associate Professor Kristen Radford and Dr Sandra Richardson, at Mater Research Institute – University of Queensland.
Chair of the Mater Research Equity, Inclusion and Diversity Committee, Prof Vicki Clifton, said the grant scheme provides funding for two awards per year.
“Each award provides $45 000 per annum for two years to support the research and career progression of high potential female researchers at Mater.”
Prof Clifton said the barriers for women are multifactorial.
“An academic research career is unforgiving and gender disadvantage accumulates overtime resulting in high attrition rates for women. There is also the added higher burden of carer responsibilities for children and/or sick or elderly dependents that disproportionately impact women, often amplifying gender bias impacts.
“The Australian Academy of Science has recognised that women comprise more than half of science PhD graduates and early career researchers, but just 17 per cent of senior academics in Australian universities and research institutes, which is an untenable statistic,” said Prof Clifton.
“In light of this, Mater Research committed to proactive solutions and interventions that will accelerate closing the gender gap. This grant scheme has the potential to make a real difference in the career progression of the many outstanding female research academics we have at Mater.”
A/Prof Kristen Radford is excited at the possibilities for her research over the next two years thanks to his grant.
“I will employ research assistant to support the day to day activities which means I can meet grant obligations, publish papers and build collaborative networks to advance my research,” A/Prof Radford said.
“Women in research’s career trajectory goes off track when they raise a family–I was lucky to continue to work part-time when my children were young, but have been playing catch up ever since to try and fill the gap left in my track record.
“This grant will allow me to reduce that gap in order to be more competitive in the chase for funding and personally for career progression,” she said.
Similarly Dr Sandy Richardson is balancing a young family and a high-level research career.
“I’m eight months pregnant with my second child and find this award incredibly meaningful,” Dr Richardson said.
”I have a wonderful husband who is my equal partner in caring for our daughter, but the biological reality is that pregnancy, childbirth, breastfeeding and periods of maternity leave have a gender-specific impact on women’s careers that cannot be mitigated by a supportive home environment alone.
“This award helps to bring the baseline up for women to have a family and a successful research career,” she said.
“I’ll be able to employ a research assistant to continue my research while I take six months maternity leave,” Dr Richardson explains.
Dr Richardson is researching how ‘jumping genes’ impact human fertility and embryonic development.
A jumping gene is a piece of DNA sequence that can copy itself from one place in our genome and insert itself somewhere else.
Prof Clifton said women in research need to be recognised for their contributions to discovery and research translation.
“Women need to be equitably compensated and have confidence in progressing their career. We need to change the workplace structures that favour a particular professional stereotype in favour of increased female leadership and workforce participation, with the proven outcome being increased innovation and productivity,” said Prof Clifton.
A/Prof Radford shared advice for early career female researchers:
“Women in research don’t have a clear trajectory so it’s important to utilise whatever support you can and find a great mentor to help navigate your way. Being aware of your career options is also worth considering,” she said.
The Mater Research Strategic Grants for Outstanding Women are proudly funded through Mater Foundation’s generous donors and supporters.
Mater Research is committed to supporting women in research and was awarded the Employer of Choice – Small Business at the 2017 Women in Technology Awards.
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