The ‘Women in Science’ open discussion was an incredible success with enlightening contributions from the panelists and audience (also via WebEx). The forum was organised by the Management Lab of the MRC Unit The Gambia on Monday 1 February 2016. As there is a gender gap in science and women’s career progression is not comparable to their male colleagues, the main purpose of the discussion was to identify challenges hindering women from progressing in science. The focus was to identify ways of encouraging more young women to get involved in science.
It was an interactive discussion which was divided into three segments. The first segment was to identify factors affecting women in science, the second was to propose solutions to the factors raised and the third was to develop an action plan. For the discussion, the focus question was; what can be done at The Unit level to understand and tackle the issues that affect the recruitment and retention of female scientists and support staff?
In the first segment, issues were raised concerning the challenges working mothers face when finding the right balance between the home and career. The second challenge raised, was barriers that occur when pursuing international appointments; the challenges of convincing partners and children to relocate. In the Gambian context, cultural limitations were echoed and the lack of a wider awareness of science related careers and constraints faced with career progression. At the end of the first segment, the panelist and audience agreed that women play a dual career role and priorities change after having a child.
In the solutions’ segment of the discussion, the need to identify more female role models, and learn from their achievements was highlighted. To foster career progression, it was suggested that it is important for women to join strong support networks and consider partners who will support their career ambition at an early stage with a shared sense of responsibility within the home.
As an outcome of the discussion, the action plan was for MRC Unit The Gambia to consider the opportunities for flexible working, increase the scope of our community engagement activities, promote mentorship programmes and introduce unconscious bias awareness training. It was also suggested for MRC Unit The Gambia to look into having child-friendly facilities such as a Creche within its premises. At the end of the discussion, the panelist and audience agreed that working mothers need to embrace authenticity as they are already being commended for the wonderful job of balancing both a career and family.
The discussion was well attended and moderated by Fatou Lette-Jallow. The panelists were Sally-Louise Smith (HR Director, MRC UK), Dr Anna Roca (Theme Coordinator Disease Control & Elimination), Ms Jorjoh Ndure (PhD Candidate), Mrs Elizabeth Stanley Batchilly (Theme Project Manager, Vaccines and Immunity), Dr Brenda Kwambana-Adams (MRC-LSHTM West Africa Global Health Research Fellow), Dr Haddy Fye (Post Doctoral Researcher, Disease Control & Elimination) and Dr Rita Wegmuller (Head of Keneba Field Station/Senior Investigator Scientist Nutrition.).
About Management Lab
MRC Unit The Gambia Management Lab is an initiative of The Unit’s Operations Director Joan Vives-Tomas. The Management Lab consists of members from different functions of The Unit, mainly from the Research Support Office, Management Trainees and Information Technology Departments. Management Lab members meet on a periodic basis to identify and discuss issues pertaining to effective and efficient research administration.