08 March 2016
Women make up less than one-eighth of science academy membership globally, according to a survey reported in the science journal Nature last week
“It’s frustrating that the pace of change is so slow” says Helen Pankhurst, great-grandaughter of Emmeline Pankhurst
A unique awards ceremony to raise the number of women in senior leadership roles in science will take place today (Tuesday 8th March), International Women’s Day.
The Suffrage Science ceremony, to be held at the Royal Society in London, will recognise ten female scientists and a science communicator, chosen for their scientific achievements and ability to inspire others by current award holders.
The Suffrage Science scheme celebrates women already in science and encourages others to enter scientific subjects, and to stay. Dr Helen Pankhurst, great granddaughter of Suffragette Emmeline Pankhurst and long-standing supporter of the scheme, will join a panel discussion on how to make a difference for women today. Science writer and broadcaster Dr Kat Arney will lead the discussion on how to make science inclusive for all, and with help from current award holders, Dr Jennifer Rohn and Professor Irene Tracey, will explore the concrete changes needed to make this vision a reality.
“Women scientists can put their mark on the world in a new way that affects change in a more gendered way,” says Pankhurst. “If we only have scientists who are men it’s a particular eye on the world that gets changed. If we have women scientists involved, then their engagement in that relationship between science and humanity is to the benefit of us all.”
The Suffrage Science scheme was set up five years ago by the MRC Clinical Sciences Centre (CSC) at Imperial College. It has been nurtured by institute director Professor Amanda Fisher, and now includes both a life sciences cohort and a physical sciences cohort, with plans to expand further.
This scientific “relay” creates an ever-expanding cohort of talented women with a connection, to encourage others to enter science and reach senior leadership roles.
The awards themselves are heirloom items of jewellery, similar to those worn by the Suffragettes. The jewellery was created by students of the art and design college Central St Martins-UAL, who worked with scientists to design pieces inspired by research. The students also drew inspiration from the Suffragette movement from which the award scheme takes its name.
According to Pankhurst, the scheme can play a strong role in keeping a flashlight on issues such as gender and activism in science. “If we make a noise and make it visible, we can hope for change that way,” she said.
“She is a strong advocate for women in science… she balances various demands on her time with aplomb and is an excellent role model,” Professor Jane Endicott, who nominated Dr Airlie McCoy
“Her bold scientific leadership has paved the way for younger generations of women researchers and, for me personally, has been a great inspiration” Dr Anja Groth, who nominated Professor Marja Jäätelä
Each awardee was nominated by an award holder from the 2015 Suffrage Science relay.
Current award holders
The Suffrage Science scheme was founded five years ago by the Medical Research Council’s Clinical Sciences Centre at Imperial College London.