Staying connected

This blog post was written by James Lush, the Biochemical Society’s Policy Officer

Following some interesting feedback we received from a survey of our members on gender equality issues and what the Society should be doing to support and celebrate women in science, coupled with discussions amongst our staff and Meetings Board and suggestions I have picked up during my long-running interest in gender equality in science, the Society has just launched a new grant scheme. The Stay Connected Bursaries will support the attendance of scientists with young children at our conferences from the start of next year – including those on parental leave, and those who require the attendance of a partner to look after a young child. We hope that this small step will go part way to overcoming one of the many challenges that scientists face in balancing a career with having a family; helping them to keep up to date with current research and maintain and develop contacts.

The introduction of this scheme follows the recent changes to our conference proposal guidelines (Focused Meeting proposal linked as an example), which now state that we aspire to a 40% female speaker representation, and that at least 25% of the invited speakers should always be women. This should also help to boost opportunities for newer investigators, amongst whom women are more readily represented.

Celebrating women in science

Our ability to bring these issues to the forefront of our policy considerations has been helped by top-level buy-in. This is widely recognised – not just in scientific organisations – as being a vital component of achieving sustainable change. Next year is the 100th anniversary of the admittance of the Society’s first female members and throughout the year the Society is organizing a variety of events, activities and initiatives to celebrate women in biochemistry and across science. Most of these have been informed by the survey These activities will take place across our departments, so keep an eye on our website over the next few months and into 2013.

Whilst I’m on the subject of celebration, Ada Lovelace Day is fast approaching, this year to be held in conjunction with the Women’s Engineering Society. Featuring performances from Helen Arney, Dr Suzie Sheehy, Gia Milinovich, Dr Helen Scales, Helen Keen, Dr Alice Bell, Sarah Angliss and Sydney Padua, the Institution of Engineering and Technology will host this celebration of the achievements of women in STEM on October 16. It should be a fun night and bring inspiring role models to the fore, a simple solution which still plays an important part in encouraging women to stay in science. The organisers are also using a crowdsourcing site to raise money in order to create a charitable organisation, securing the long-term future of the event and expanding the group’s activities. You can find out more about Ada Lovelace Day at the Finding Ada blog.

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