Peter Mac News

Women researchers to the front: International Day of Women and Girls in Science

12 February 2024


We’re putting a spotlight on Peter Mac’s Research Gender Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (RGEDI) group to mark International Day of Women and Girls in Science.

Formed in 2016, the 25-strong staff committee is dedicated to improving the experience of women and gender diverse people in science.

It aims to devise practical solutions to real-life challenges and promote awareness around the need for equity in medical research.

“We are all very passionate,” says group Co-Chair Dr Lorey Smith, “we have a great mix of gender, age, and people who work in lots of different areas, which helps us understand a wide range of experiences and advocate really effectively.”

While there has been some progress, women still only make up 27% of the Australian STEM workforce. Only 23% of senior managers in STEM-qualified industries are women. In 2021, women working full-time in STEM industries earned $26,000 less than their male counterparts.[i]

RGEDI has designed support schemes to address the challenges of having a family while pursuing a research career.

Associate Professor Laura Forrest and RGEDI co-Chair explains, “having or caring for children has traditionally slowed down researchers’ career progression. Our initiatives acknowledge this impact and aim to reduce it by supporting research progress.”

Dr Smith adds, “supports like this keep great scientists in the STEM workforce.”

The Research Momentum for Parents Grant supports parents of any gender who are taking long parental leave. Providing grants of up to $30,000, it allows research to continue during leave, and helps researchers transition back into the workforce.

This initiative is funded through generous donations to the Peter MacCallum Cancer Foundation.

RGEDI also administers the annual Peter Mac Lea Medal. Supporting high achieving mid-career women-identifying researchers, each recipient receives $50,000 to access career-changing professional development opportunities.

The medallists are announced at Peter Mac’s Women in Science Symposium. Now in its fourth year, the 2024 symposium will feature guest speakers from St. Vincent’s Medical Research Institute, Mercy Health, and Peter Mac, including the 2024 Lea Medallists.

Held around International Women’s Day, the symposium highlights the many contributions of women-identifying researchers, provides a forum to discuss issues and challenges, and promotes connection across the Australian medical research community.

Registrations for the 2024 symposium are now open.