New fellowship for gender equity in science

23 July 2014

Australia’s first major fellowship designed to help scientists build their careers after taking time off to look after their children has been launched at The Australian National University (ANU).

The Judith Whitworth Fellowship for Gender Equality in Science has been established by the John Curtin School of Medical Research (JCSMR) at the ANU. It offers support for early- to mid-career scientists who have experienced significant career disruption as a result of maternity or parental leave.

Dr Julia Ellyard, a medical researcher and the chair of the JCSMR equity committee, said the Fellowship sent a strong signal that women had an important contribution to make to science.

“I think that this Fellowship provides hope for myself and my colleagues in a similar position, that there is a way to maintain your career over this difficult period when you are trying to balance the demands of a young family and get your research up and going again,” Dr Ellyard said.

Women who become parents or plan to have children abandon research careers up to twice as often as men in similar circumstances.

ACT Chief Minister Katy Gallagher launched the Fellowship and said the contribution made by these scientists was critical to maintaining scientific capability in research in Australia.

“It’s important to look at ways to minimize the impact that a career break can have,” she said.

The Fellowship is merit based and will provide up to two years of salary, plus research support of up to $50,000 for the successful candidate to re-establish scientific projects, strengthen their track record and regain national and international competitiveness when applying for independent external research funding.

The Fellowship is named in honour of Professor Judith Whitworth, past director of The John Curtin School of Medical Research.

“Gender equity is an important pillar of social justice,” Professor Whitworth said. “Female education and participation relates to the health of society, economic development, productivity and social stability.”

The Fellowship will be supported by The John Curtin School of Medical Research, The John Curtin Medical Research Foundation, and ANU Workplace giving program.

The first Fellowship is expected to start in January next year.