Panel discussion on gender equality in science


In line with International Women’s Day on the 8th March, we held a panel discussion in which members of the scientific community debated the underrepresentation of women in science.

With only approximately 11% of women holding senior positions in scientific academia across the EU, the issue of gender inequality in STEM continues to attract much debate globally. A 2015 study conducted by L’Oréal Foundation, which investigated the public’s perceptions of scientists, suggested that this disparity may be a result of prejudices systemic in our society. The survey indicated that 67% of Europeans were of the opinion that women do not possess the required capabilities needed to access high-level scientific positions, while in China, 93% were of the belief that women lacked the abilities to pursue senior science jobs. In spite of this, over half of the survey’s respondents felt that the evolution of women’s place in scientific research is shockingly slow and many estimated that women were far more numerous in science than is actually the case – so what is the cause for the apparent lack of gender equality in science?

In this panel discussion senior members of the scientific community shared their thoughts on gender equality and the underrepresentation of women in STEM careers. In addition, panelists examined the results of our survey, which canvassed the opinions of the scientific community with regard to this issue.

Why should you tune in?

  • Gain an insight into gender equality in STEM
  • Learn about what is being done at a political/organizational level to aid women’s rise to senior level scientific positions
  • Hear expert opinion on potential causes behind the underrepresentation of women in STEM careers and what is being done to address this

Who may this interest?

  • All members of the STEM community, including both academia and industry
  • Policymakers engaged in promoting diversity in STEM


Ellie-Cosgrave-80x95pxEllie Cosgrave
Research Associate at University College London (UK)
Co-Founder and Director of ScienceGrrl

Ellie Cosgrave is an Engineer and Research Associate at University College London’s Department of Science Technology Engineering and Public Policy (UCL STEaPP). She is also Co-Founder and Director of ScienceGrrl – a national network that supports women in science and engineering careers.

Ellie’s academic work explores the future of cities, with a particular focus on how digital technologies are transforming urban spaces and challenging existing systems of governance.

As part of her role at ScienceGrrl, Ellie shapes the strategic direction of the organization through close engagement with the organization’s membership. She works with schools and science museums to develop outreach content for work with young people. She also plays a role in advising national policy on girls’ access to STEM careers and is often invited to attend sector roundtable discussions and government events. As part of her policy advice, Ellie co-authored the report ‘Through Both Eyes: the case for a gender lens in STEM’, which highlights the invisible hurdles affecting young girls and lays out policy recommendations for the STEM sector. Ellie is often asked to present at careers fairs, STEM industry events, feminist conferences and appear on radio and TV news programmes.

MMara Dierssen-80x95pxara Dierssen
Group leader, Cellular & Systems Neurobiology
Center for Genomic Regulation (Barcelona, Spain)

Dr Dierssen’s research builds on multilevel exploration of neural networks and dynamical models to provide insight into the integrative principles in brain cognitive systems, predominantly using genetically modified mouse models of intellectual disability and other cognition disorders. The overall goal of her research is understanding how putative candidate genes for human complex genetic diseases impair the neuronal connectivity with consequences on brain cognitive systems. She is a world expert in the field and has received several recognitions for her work (Ramón Trias Fargas, Jaime Blanco or Sisley-Lejeune Awards). Dr Dierssen is past President of the Spanish Society of Neuroscience, and of the International Behavioral and Neural Genetics Society, member of the Executive Committee of the Federation of European Neurosciences Societies, founder member and Secretary General of the Trisomy 21 Research Society, The European DANA and has been elected member of the Academia Europaea.

Ying-Duo-Gao-80x95pxYing-Duo Gao
Principal Scientist

Ying graduated from Peking University in China with a BS in Chemistry, and obtained a PhD from Ochanomizu University in Japan. After completing a joint postdoc program at Eli Lilly and IUPUI, and briefly working at Pharm-Eco, she joined Merck in 1996 as a Senior Research Chemist and has been involved in a wide variety of computer aided drug design programs across therapeutic areas. Her most rewarding experience has been contributing to the discovery of DPP-4 inhibitors for the treatment of type II diabetes as a key inventor. Ying has over 70 publications and patents.

Michael-Reilly-80x95pxMichael A Reilly
Director Quantitative Pharmacology

Mike has over 20 years of experience as a researcher in drug discovery within big Pharma. This includes 12 years working at Merck in the UK and US, exploring new chemical entities for the treatment of a range of disorders from Neuroscience to Oncology. For the last eight years he has led a team of drug metabolism and pharmacokinetic scientists who have been developing treatments for diseases in the immuno inflammatory space. Most recently his role has expanded to include leading a group of in vivo pharmacologists as well.

Susan-L-Solomon-80x95pxSusan L Solomon
CEO and Co-Founder
The New York Stem Cell Foundation (NYSCF)

Susan L Solomon is Founder and Chief Executive Officer of The New York Stem Cell Foundation (NYSCF) Research Institute, the world’s leading non-profit research institute dedicated to translating cutting-edge stem cell research into clinical breakthroughs. Privately funded, NYSCF is unconstrained and therefore unique in its ability to expedite the most promising stem cell research both at its own independent laboratory employing 45 full-time scientists and through its collaborations with more than 50 academic, philanthropic, and corporate institutions around the globe.

Sandra-Swain-80x95pxSandra M Swain, MD, FACP, FASCO
Medical Director, Washington Cancer Institute, MedStar Washington Hospital Center
Professor, Georgetown University

Sandra M Swain, MD, FACP, FASCO is the Medical Director of the Washington Cancer Institute at MedStar Washington Hospital Center in Washington, DC. She is also a Professor of Medicine at Georgetown University and Adjunct Professor of Medicine at Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences. Previously, she served at the National Institutes of Health as the Deputy Branch Chief for the Medicine Branch of the Center for Cancer Research at the National Cancer Institute (NCI) with tenure as a Principal Investigator. At the NIH, she was also the Head of the Breast Cancer Section, and Chief of the Cancer Therapeutics Branch. She graduated with a Bachelor of Arts (BA) in Chemistry from the University of North Carolina in 1975 and earned her Doctor of Medicine (MD) from the University of Florida in Gainesville in 1980. She completed a residency in Internal Medicine at Vanderbilt University in 1983 followed by a fellowship in Medical Oncology at the NCI in 1986.

Swain’s research interests include translational research and clinical trials focused on metastatic and inflammatory breast cancer, adjuvant therapy for breast cancer, cardiotoxicity, and health care disparities. Her research has received funding from the National Institutes of Health, Susan G. Komen Foundation, Breast Cancer Research Foundation, and the Avon Foundation. She has published over 250 articles and is internationally recognized as a leader in the field breast cancer research and treatment. Moreover, Swain has received numerous awards and recognitions for her work, including the Susan G. Komen Award of Distinction for Community Service in 2012. She is also a recipient of the National Institutes of Health Merit Award, as well as a two-time recipient of the National Cancer Institute Mentor of Merit Award. She received the Claude Jacquillat Award for Clinical Cancer Research in 2012.

Swain served as President of the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) from 2013-14. She is currently a member of the Conquer Cancer Foundation Board of Directors and was previously a member of the ASCO Board of Directors. She sits on the Board of Directors for the MedStar Washington Hospital Center and the MedStar Washington Hospital Center Foundation. She has actively contributed to the National Surgical Adjuvant Breast and Bowel Project for over 25 years and is an active member of the NRG Breast Committee. She is also a member of the American Association of Cancer Research.