Woman scientists should be visible in Denmark

Publiceret Oktober 2003

The Danish Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology has - once again - held a fantastic Annual Meeting with high calibre scientific talks, organised and/or given by 9 scientists based in Denmark and by 9 invited speakers from abroad. Noticeable by their absence, though, were the female scientific speakers. Even among the audience, the number of female senior scientists, at lecturer level or above, could be counted on one hand, resulting in male-dominated question sessions.

Given that roughly half the students present at the meeting were female (my estimate), it is unfortunate that the message we seem to send them is that women cannot progress far in Biochemistry research in Denmark. Where were the senior female biochemists? The issue is not whether any were invited (they were), the question is, what can we do to increase the visibility of female scientists in Denmark, so that we can send a more positive signal to the female students? I believe at least part of the solution is to increase the proportion of women at lecturer level or above, and to improve their networking skills. I do not advocate positive action, rather, I believe in positive encouragement. I believe that senior researchers - male or female - should actively encourage the junior (PhD and post-docs) female scientists in their groups to: apply for independent funding, give talks at meetings outside the group, engage in discussions at scientific congresses, partipate in events and collaborations in which they meet other scientists, and get the skills necessary to achieve senior scientist/lecturer positions. As well as increasing the visibility of female scientists, it is my own experience that these steps increase self-confidence and networking skills, leading to valuable scientific collaborations and funding, and resulting in a positive feedback loop which helps these scientists to achieve senior positions at the same time as improving their visibility.