Closing the gender gap


By Philip Fine

Dr. Lisa Münter became a mother when she was a postdoctoral fellow in Germany. When she returned to work, her research centre paid for a student to help her three days a week for a year. That meant she could complete experiments and get home at a decent hour. It also meant she could continue her career and remain competitive. Today, she is an assistant professor in the Department of Pharmacology & Therapeutics, where she helms an Alzheimer’s research lab.

Münter beat the odds. While nearly half of all doctorates and postdocs are women, around one in three make it to assistant professor and one in five to full professor.

This past year, Münter and Bobbi Bidochka, a research officer in the same department, launched Win4Science to help close the gender gap across the Life Sciences programs at McGill.

Münter points out how the most competitive age in academia is the late 30s. That’s the age many women drop out to start families. “People think these women had a choice, but they had no choice. They did not have the support.”

Inspired by the Women in Physics initiative at McGill, Win4Science has held seminars on impostor syndrome and unconscious gender bias, and will soon launch a mentorship program to show young women what a successful female career in academia can look like.

They also hope to raise funds to provide trainees who are new mothers with some assistance in the lab, help with domestic duties or child care at a conference, so that they will be more likely to continue with a scientific research career.

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