Addressing Gender Disparities in STEM

Guest Blog – Melissa Proffitt Schmidt and Anne Laine of ResearcHERS

Women make up about 25 percent of the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) workforce; yet represent roughly 50 percent of the population. And that math doesn’t add up.

While progress has been made in the U.S., especially in the life sciences; significant disparities remain. According to the National Science Foundation’s Science and Engineering Indicators 2018 report, women reached gender parity in biological and medical scientist occupations in 2015, holding 53 percent of jobs.  Still, persistent challenges include women remaining in these professions and reaching the highest levels. A lack of adequate support, advancement opportunities, and pay and workload equity are contributing factors.  Women, for example, currently represent less than 12 percent of National Cancer Institute-designated Cancer Center Directors.

That’s why the American Cancer Society launched a new initiative – ResearcHERS: Women Fighting Cancer. The movement engages women to raise funds that directly support women-led cancer research, while also spotlighting the life experiences and discoveries of women in research and inspiring the next generation of girls to pursue their dreams of a career in science.

As a top supporter of women-led cancer research, and the nation’s largest, non-governmental source of cancer research funding, with more than $4.8 billion invested since 1946 – the American Cancer Society recognized it was poised to make a positive impact.

Currently, half of the American Cancer Society’s grantees are women. And moreover, the American Cancer Society is known for funding researchers at every phase of their career, including two essential times when it can be especially challenging: early in one’s career and in early research, which can lead to breakthroughs that revolutionize healthcare and save lives.

“1 in 3 Americans will battle cancer in their lifetime and we need the best and brightest minds engaged in order to rid the world of this dreaded disease,” said Carolyn Bruzdzinski, PhD, ACS Regional Cancer Control Vice President.  “Recognizing the unique challenges we face, women have expressed a strong interest in supporting scientifically sound women-led cancer research.”

 Forty-three women from across Indiana participated as Ambassadors in the inaugural Indiana ResearcHERS: Women Fighting Cancer movement raising more than $194,000. The campaign also had strong corporate support in its Presenting Sponsor, Eli Lilly Oncology; Bronze Sponsor, Roche; and matching gift donor, HOPE (Health Opportunity through Partnership in Education), in partnership with Washington National Insurance Company. To learn more visit ACSresearcHERS.org/Indiana.