A groundbreaking study into gender equity is to take place at two of the UK’s leading medical research organisations.
The study has been announced by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Oxford Biomedical Research Centre (BRC) and the NIHR BRC at Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust and King’s College London. It will focus on women’s contributions to the leadership, talent, funding, and outputs in clinical research.
The study is aimed at maximising the NIHR’s scientific, societal, and economic return on investment in research.
The results will be used to inform planning and monitoring at the participating NIHR BRCs – whose role it is to conduct translational research to transform scientific breakthroughs into life-saving treatments for patients – with a view to accelerating women’s advancement and leadership.
The lack of gender equity in academic medicine is a serious threat to the quality and international competitiveness of research and to public support for science, a rationale and study protocol published in BMJ Open says.
But efforts to assess and monitor gender equity in translational research organisations are sparse. This is despite research which shows that women are more likely than men to exhibit transformative leadership styles that are more collaborative and less hierarchical.
These styles are positively associated with leaders’ effectiveness, with higher performance and better outcomes in healthcare, research has shown.
The study will focus on women in executive, leadership, and investigatory roles as well as policies and programmes to recruit, train, and support women.
Both BRCs support the Athena SWAN Charter established in 2005 to encourage and recognise commitment to advancing the careers of women in science, technology, engineering, maths and medicine employment in higher education and research.
Professor Keith Channon, Director of the NIHR Oxford BRC, said: “Participation in Athena SWAN Charter for Women in Science has been a great catalyst for culture change in our Medical Schools.
“There is a great opportunity for the NIHR BRCs to maintain the momentum towards gender equity leadership in NIHR BRC programmes, through high-profile scientific publications, and in filing patents and working with industry.”
Professor Graham Lord, Director of the Guy’s and St Thomas’ BRC said: “Collaboration between the UK’s leading universities and NHS trusts is imperative to maximise the scientific, societal, and economic impact of the NIHR’s investment in medical research. We believe that our robust approach in Oxford and London will encourage other centres worldwide to apply the same methods.”
Co-author Linda Pololi, Director of the US National Initiative on Gender, Culture and Leadership in Medicine (C-Change), said: “The use of the markers of achievement instrument by these two world-class research centres attests to their genuine commitment to accelerate diversity and assure the advancement of their female biomedical and behavioural scientists, and the centres’ determination that this is both a continuing and truly transparent process.”