This article was originally posted on the ABC on the 17th December, 2016. Author: Anna MacDonald. Click here to read the original.
One of Australia’s largest medical research institutes has introduced a scheme aimed at boosting its number of female scientists.
QIMR Berghofer, based in Brisbane, is offering female scientists with at least one child below high-school age an annual lump sum payment of $10,000.
The institute has also reserved a number of places at a nearby childcare centre for its staff, established a breastfeeding room, and dedicated carparks for women in their final term of pregnancy.
QIMR Berghofer director and CEO Professor Frank Gannon said the challenges facing women in the world of science were particularly intense.
He said the new initiative would hopefully help women rise to the top of their field and stay there.
“I think that we have to have women in the workforce to the same degree as there are men and there is real statistical evidence that shows that this is not happening at the right level worldwide,” he said.
“Not just talking about it but doing things means that when somebody is wondering about what should they do next in terms of family, at least there’s some support there and more than that there’s a culture of support.”
Women account for 36 per cent of scientific leadership roles at QIMR Berghofer.
Two of the institute’s nine senior scientists are female.
QIMR Berghofer hopes the new scheme will lead to an increase in those figures.
‘It’s so nice to be valued and respected’
Associate Professor Louisa Gordon, a senior researcher at QIMR Berghofer studying the economics of healthcare, has two children.
“There’s always that pressure to keep publishing, keep networking, going to meetings and workshops and trying to develop your skills and keep up to date with the latest developments — that’s where the pressure comes in,” she said.
She said she would use the money to pay for childcare.
“I’m also considering going to a few international meets so that I can network and get more involved in my field,” she said.
“It’s so nice to be valued and respected and just acknowledge that you’ve got these large commitments outside of work but you’re still committed to your workplace.”
Dr Nicola Waddell, a cancer researcher at QIMR Berghofer, is a mother of two young children.
“There’s always a pressure that you can’t take too much time away from work because science is rapidly moving and you have to stay on top of your game and stay on top of your field to be competitive,” she said.
Because of those pressures, Dr Waddell took three months off when her son was born and two months leave after the birth of her daughter.
She already knows how she will take advantage of the scheme.
“I’m going to use that to fund either administrative support or research assistant support and that just helps out with the lab and helps out with the work-life balance,” she said.