How to 'break the bias' in medical research: #IWD2022 special

16 women medical researchers from Monash's Central Clinical School tell like it is for International Women's Day 2022.

IWD2022 video gallery
See the video featuring 16 women in research at the Central Clinical School and their analyses of gender bias.

International Women's Day (March 8) is a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women. Being the first Central Clinical School Gender Equity and Diversity (CCS GEDI) committee event in 2022, this year we will celebrate the achievements of women at the CCS under the theme of “break the bias”.

CCS staff were invited to nominate women champions of change at the School, those who have dared to smash through the glass ceiling, demonstrating leadership and mentorship in driving an equitable workforce in Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics and Medicine (STEMM). Sixteen exceptional women were nominated from CCS's Department of Neuroscience, Department of Psychiatry, the National Trauma Research Institute and Respiratory Research@Alfred. In the words of the nominators, the women were outstanding.

For example, Professor Richelle Mychasiuk was described as being “insanely good at reflecting on biases, speaking out when observing gender-biased behaviour, and supporting female-led research.” Women were identified within their departments as directly contributing to culture change, e.g. Dr Bridgette Semple was described as having “a strong determination to ensure that women researchers in neuroscience are valued as part of discussions and are adequately represented in research activities.”

What our champions of change said

IWD2022 video gallery
See the infographic for gender bias themes.

Our women champions of change were asked to identify one bias that they have experienced in STEMM and suggest how we can work together to ‘break the bias’.

Also, the CCS GEDI and Community and Researcher Engagement (CaRE) committees have highlighted these women researchers, educators, and professionals in a short video that we highly recommend everyone to watch, to help elevate discussions on how we can work together to strive towards an equitable community for all. See also the list of CCS researchers involved in the video and where to find out more about them.

Several women researchers identified gender bias in funding and grant applications, and suggested that a quota or blinded review will be important in breaking this bias. Dr Jess Borger’s recent article on gender inequity in grant peer review discusses this them in more detail.

Other biases include the lack of acknowledgement of the invisible workload by overlooking women staff’s workloads, contributions, and carer responsibility when evaluating their work.

Importantly, unconscious or implicit bias has been identified as one of the most common types of biases in STEMM by our women researchers. It is therefore essential that we learn to be aware of these biases and avoid using stereotypes when making judgements in regard to extending opportunities such as symposium chairing or committee invitations, participating in peer review, collaborations in research and grants and in the review of grants and promotions.

By identifying and understanding those biases, we can work together to overcome them and move towards achieving gender equity, both in the workplace and in daily life.

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