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New Mentoring Program For Women In Science

14/Aug/2017   By: Nicole Pierre
Senior research officer, Samantha Ginn is one of the 54 participants in the Franklin Women's program.

54 researchers and their allocated mentors met for the first time on June 22 as part of a new mentoring program for women in science. While mentoring programs for women is nothing new in the corporate sector, the Franklin Women program is the first of its kind for women specifically in the health and medical research sector.

The program coordinated by Franklin Women and leadership consultant company, Serendis aims to support female scientists break the glass ceiling and reach leadership positions in their sector. CMRI has sponsored Samantha Ginn and Rosemary Balleine to participate in the Franklin Women’s program as a mentee and mentor, respectively.

Samantha Ginn, senior research officer in the gene therapy unit says the program gives her the luxury to put aside time to really focus on her professional development.

“I guess for me, I’d like to progress my career and this is a really nice way that I can be quite focused on what I need to put in place. It’s not often that you get a lot of time to focus on yourself, as well as the research and the experiments,” Ginn said.

While women excel as much as their male cohort in their tertiary level science education, they are disproportionately underrepresented in leadership positions in the medical research and health sectors.

Franklin Women founder Dr Melina Georgousakis said, “Only a small proportion of the top positions in science are held by women." She added, “This means somewhere along the way we are losing the knowledge and passing of women who have dedicated their careers to saving lives through their research.”

Samantha said putting one’s career on hold to raise a family is a common reason for this disparity. “I have had a couple of career breaks with children. And I guess just trying to manage that, I feel like I’ve sort of got to here and I want to keep going further,” Samantha said.

The mentor team include both men and women who are experienced researchers, professors and laboratory heads who bring substantial leadership skills and personal experience to the program.

Samantha said she didn’t feel strongly one way or another about having a male mentor. “I think they (Serendis) focused on what was going to be a good match and this is what they do, so I think they get that ‘right’ a lot of the time.”

There are also wider societal benefits of having men onboard through removing stigmas of women in the medical workplace. “If they are men and they are taught to think in a different way, then maybe that’s a good trait to bring back to their institute. And think ‘hang on a minute’ – maybe you shouldn’t say that or do that,” Samantha said.

While gender inequity is still a problem facing the industry, Samantha Ginn is optimistic that programs like Franklin Women’s initiative is a step in the right direction.

“I think there are a lot of factors but it seems that at this time where we’re at—there’s a lot more discussion about equity and inclusiveness. I think things are changing, but it’s going to take time,” Samantha said. She admits it’s too soon to talk about any personal changes in the last month, but she is humbled that CMRI is sponsoring her involvement in such a worthwhile program. “It’s nice that CMRI wants to invest not just money but the time that I’m involved in the program,” she said.

Samantha aspires to have a larger team with more students as a group leader or Associate Professor in the Gene Therapy unit. She hopes the six-month mentoring program will allow her to track and identify the next steps in her career.