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Women Scientists – Are You Thinking About Your Own Personal Development?

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WomenInScienceTo excel in a scientific career with an advanced degree, a rigorous and arduous training regimen is required. During the graduate and post-doctoral training phases of this career path, one spends much of their time focused on advancing projects, analyzing data, writing manuscripts and preparing seminars. Most trainees spend their time thinking, What does the data I collected mean?, How does the new information I have discovered fit in to the large amount of information already published in the literature? or Will the final functional assay of the study support, or disapprove, the data I’ve been collecting for the past two years? Although this rigorous yet isolated form of training is imperative for the traditional academic scientist track, it may not offer all of the skills needed if one is to enter a scientific career in the pharmaceutical, regulatory or biotechnology sectors. The National Science Foundation reports that only 14 percent of life scientists will obtain a tenured or tenure-track position. Therefore, the reality is there simply are not enough academic positions for everyone. The statistics are even more challenging if you’re a woman. In the United States in 2006, only 11 percent of full-time tenured or tenure-track faculty in the sciences and engineering were women1. Numerous studies and articles have been written about the lack of representation of women in science in senior level positions—from academia to CEOs. This disparity has been accounted to women facing challenges that include limited access to informal networks, gender-based stereotypes, lack of role models and less access to highly visible, mission-critical “hot jobs” which predict advancement2. If you are a woman training as a basic scientist and are curious about pursuing a non-academic tenured position, I recommend you begin to think about developing your “soft” skills prior to beginning your journey of transitioning into the field. Scientists need to hone their skills in their ability to collaborate within a team environment, negotiate and understand mission critical priorities. However, these skill sets are often not appreciated in the traditional scientific training. Through networking forums, mentoring and educational programs, knowledge-sharing opportunities and access to industry thought leaders, the Women in Science (WIS) affinity group of the Healthcare Businesswomen’s Association (HBA) can help you develop these skills. It’s a vibrant, highly charged group of industry professionals committed to helping women—at every stage of their careers—simultaneously achieve their greatest potential and contribute to the advancement of science. WIS includes women from the pharmaceutical sector, biomedical engineering and medical device companies, as well as members from private research institutes, universities and government. Many WIS members, whether at the start of their careers or in executive leadership roles, hold scientific degrees. “This community of women has a unique background within the HBA,” said Dr. Courtney Granville, a senior research scientist at Battelle—the world’s largest nonprofit research and development organization—which serves the national security, health and life sciences, and energy and environmental industries. She added, “Maintaining our relationships with one another and learning about new ways to apply our scientific training provide meaningful opportunities for professional and personal growth.” Last fall, Medidata, an HBA Corporate Partner, sponsored the first WIS reception at the annual HBA Leadership Conference in Boston, which focused on “the art and science of leadership.” As Dr. Deshanie Rai, a senior scientific leader at DSM: Human Nutrition and Health—a global science-based company active in health, nutrition and materials—shared, “With approximately 150 attendees, the reception provided an excellent platform to renew and make new connections and, equally important, engage in dialogue about the challenges and opportunities facing women scientists across the healthcare Industry.” You can learn more about upcoming WIS events and the HBA by visiting http://www.hbanet.org/ or emailing hbawis@hbanet.org. *Guest blogger Linda Brock, PhD, is a post-doctoral fellow in infectious diseases. She serves as the Global Committee Chair of WIS for the HBA. You can follow Linda on twitter @Linda_Brock_PhD. 1. Burrelli, Joan. “Thirty-Three Years of Women in S&E Faculty Positions.” NSF. June 2008 2. Catalyst Research Findings. (Catalyst, 2013).

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