Dear Mass General Research Community,

How close are we to closing the gender gap in the sciences?

As you’ll read below, we have come a long way since Brit d’Arbeloff first blazed a trail for women in the field of mechanical engineering in the late 1950s and early 1960s, but we still have a way to go.

Earlier this month, Elsevier released the results of a multi-year study called “Gender in the Global Research Landscape,” which analyzed the roles of men and women in 27 areas of science across 12 countries and regions, primarily first-world nations in Europe, America and Asia.

The good news, according to this study, is that gender balance has improved significantly over the past 15 years. According to an analysis of published work between 2011 and 2015, women now comprise over 40% of researchers in the United States, European Union, United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, France, Brazil, Denmark and Portugal.

While the numbers may be getting better, women are still lagging behind in positions of leadership in academia. According to the U.S. National Science Foundation, women earn 50% of the doctoral degrees in science but represent only 21% of full professors at the faculty level.

There are many possible reasons for this disconnect, but one challenge many women scientists face is trying to balance work and home life while starting a family.

Since 1997, Massachusetts General Hospital has helped to support female investigators during this critical time thanks to an initiative that was launched by Jane Claflin, a longtime volunteer, supporter and honorary trustee of the hospital.

The Claflin Distinguished Scholar Awards provide female investigators of child-rearing age with financial support to help sustain their research careers during this time of transition.

Over the past two decades, more than 100 researchers have received Claflin Awards, and as you’ll read in our story on Dr. Julie Levison below, the funds make a real difference.

As we come to the end of Women’s History Month, let’s celebrate the advancements we have made, recognize that there is still plenty of work to be done, and challenge the scientific community to do a better job at promoting the careers of outstanding female scientists in the future.

Until next month,
Susan A. Slaugenhaupt, PhD
Scientific Director
Mass General Research Institute


In Depth

A Trailblazing Engineer Continues Her Advocacy for Gender Equality in the Sciences

Almost six decades after she became the first woman to graduate from Stanford University’s mechanical engineering program, philanthropist Brit d’Arbeloff (above right) is still breaking down barriers for female scientists.



In the News

Research Community Responds to Proposed NIH Budget Cuts

President Donald Trump's proposed budget for Fiscal 2018, which calls for a 20% reduction in funding for the National Institutes of Health (NIH), would have a devastating effect on medical research at Massachusetts General Hospital and across the country, says Harry W. Orf, PhD, senior vice president for research.


Levison Makes a Dramatic Bid to Improve HIV Care Adherence Among Latino Immigrants

A dramatic video illustrating the consequences of letting HIV care lapse is being tested by Dr. Julie Levison as a public health intervention in the local Latino immigrant community.



Postdoc Profiles

The following profiles were written by Hayley Mattison, PhD, and Carla D'Avanzo, PhD, as part of their communications internship with the Mass General Research Institute.

Fenn ready to trade in her lab coat for a business suit

It’s not often that you go into a research lab expecting to become a scientist and end up with a job as a management consultant.

But somehow, it seems par for the course for Ashley Fenn, PhD, whose career has already taken plenty of twists and turns along the way.



Falkard hopes to make a difference by testing a cholera vaccine in Haiti

Postdoctoral fellow Brie Falkard, PhD has been working to test the effectiveness of a vaccine for cholera in Haiti, with the hope of preventing another devastating outbreak.


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