Leading the way for gender equality

Best Practice for Supporting Women in Science 2016
Best Practice for Supporting Women in Science 2016 awarded to Robert Petryszak of EMBL-EBI and Sumana Sharma of the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute

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Robert Petryszak of EMBL-EBI and Sumana Sharma of the Sanger Institute acknowledged for leadership in gender equality on the Wellcome Genome Campus with Sex in Science Best Practice Award 2016

Mike Stratton, Ewan Birney and Rolf Apweiler today acknowledged the contribution of two staff members to promoting gender equality in the life sciences, bestowing the second annual Wellcome Genome Campus Sex in Science Best Practice Award. This year’s recipients are Robert Petryszak of EMBL-EBI and Sumana Sharma of the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute.

The award is part of the Sex in Science programme, a joint initiative of the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute and EMBL-EBI to generate discussion and raises awareness about issues traditionally facing women in science, and drive policy and practice changes to redress them. Internationally, women are under-represented in science as career levels progress, and significant numbers of women leave science altogether to pursue other careers. The issues that cause this well-recognised ‘leaky pipeline’ now affect not only female scientists, but increasingly men in science. The Sex in Science Programme explores these issues, look to inspire researchers, develop discussion and drive change in current practices and policy.

Promoting equality in science

PhD student Sumana Sharma was recognised for her tireless commitment to encouraging women to get involved in promoting gender equality in science and education, and in reviewing policies around career advancement. The nomination for Sharma reads: “She is the most passionate campaigner for women’s equality I have ever met, and certainly amongst her peer group she has been actively encouraging women to take opportunities for many years.” Sharma is the PhD student representative for the Athena SWAN programme, and will also be speaking at the Science for your Future event on 20 April 2016 in London, attended by approximately 300 secondary school students.

Attracting and keeping the right talented people depends on making sure we offer a good balance, so they can enjoy their time here and do their best work.

“I am really honoured to have been nominated,” says Sharma. “I am from Nepal, where my mother was denied education and made a big effort her whole life to ensure her daughters received a good education. I am very vocal about equality, but also want to impress upon my peers how privileged we all are, and how much it matters to get involved. Participating in debates and other activities in the Sex in Science programme is one way, but it’s also important to keep pressure on to review policies like quota systems and how we approach recruitment. If equality is what we want, are we approaching it the right way? Training, mentorship and using the right language to get women to apply to jobs in the first place – these things are crucial and we need to keep the discussion live.”

Robert Petryszak, Team Leader for Gene Expression services at EMBL-EBI, was nominated for building flexible working into his team structure, right from the outset. His nomination reads: “Robert has built a team with flexi-working as a key feature right from the start. He trusts his team, and reasons for flexi-working are not limited to only childcare or family-related issues. This ensures optimal work-life balance at all times for everyone.”

Flexible working hours have directly led to good team spirit and excellent productivity

“I am surprised and honoured to have been nominated for this award,” says Petryszak. “I’m glad my team feels supported, and believe that flexible working hours have directly led to good team spirit and excellent productivity.”

Supporting a good work-life balance

“This award acknowledges people who have made a real effort to make the Genome Campus an excellent place to work for women and men alike,” says Ewan Birney, Director of EMBL-EBI. “Attracting and keeping the right talented people depends on making sure we offer a good balance, so they can enjoy their time here and do their best work.”

“The Best Practice Award is a strong message of our intent to make the Genome Campus a place where people can aspire to develop and fulfil their ambitions, look forward to coming to work, are confident of equality of opportunity and consideration of their diverse needs as individuals,” says Mike Stratton, Director of the Sanger Institute. “In celebrating the Award winners and their fantastic efforts we are making a wider statement about the nature of our organisation and the directions in which we wish to further improve it.”

This post was originally published on EMBL-EBI News.