Putting the spotlight on women in science
Rosie Loft | 03 February 2017
Following the launch of the first ever UK Renal Research Strategy in 2016, we have put the spotlight on recommendations aimed at ensuring equal opportunities for female scientists. Amongst the suggested measures for how to create and assist the next generation of researchers focused on kidney disease, the Strategy recommends flexible support for researchers taking career breaks in order that those returning to work can continue to contribute to the innovation agenda in the UK.
In the light of the UN’s International Day for Women and Girls in Science on 11 February, we are celebrating the female researchers we fund and their achievements in tackling kidney disease, as well as drawing attention to the challenging circumstances that some will have faced as they developed their careers.
Dr Morag Mansley, in the lab
Whilst 65% of early career researchers in biomedical sciences are female, a huge drop off rate is reported when looking at progression to professor level with less than one in five biomedical professor positions across the research sector currently held by women.
According to a recent report by the Higher Education Statistics Agency exploring levels of academic staff in higher education in 2015- 2016, less than a quarter (24%) of all academic professors in the UK are female, demonstrating the need for greater support for women across wider academia, not purely within the field of research.
On a positive note, we're pleased to report a balanced 50/50 split of male and female researchers leading the projects we currently fund to find treatments and cures for kidney disease. This is a significant increase in the last decade, with only 5% of the charity’s grants being awarded to female researchers in 2006.
“The research funded by Kidney Research UK is chosen entirely on the basis of scientific merit,” said Sandra Currie, chief executive of Kidney Research UK. “The fact that the proportion of female researchers that we fund has increased ten-fold in the last decade is a great sign for women in science. The UK Renal Research Strategy has identified hurdles that have to be overcome for such talent to flourish. We are very proud of all of our researchers who are helping us find ways to treat, alleviate and hopefully, one day, cure kidney disease. The fact that so many of them are women, and that they may have had added obstacles to get over in their career paths makes their achievements even greater.
“Together with two of our medical trustees, Professor Fiona Karet and Ms Lorna Marson, we are currently exploring ways we can provide additional career development support to improve the retention of this talent in the renal sector.”
We are keen to share information about a selection of these inspirational women, from all across the UK, leading the way in trail blazing research projects:
Reader in Renal Medicine and Honorary Consultant Nephrologist at King’s College London/King’s College Hospital. Chair of the Athena SWAN self-assessment committee (a charter established to recognise commitment to gender equality). Read Claire's story.
Kidney Research Fellow working at the University of Liverpool. Main interests/expertise includes:hormones, urinary tract infections, and bacterial relationship with muscle function. Read Rachel's story.
Consultant Nephrologist at the West London Renal & Transplant Centre, Hammersmith Hospital and Professor of Renal Medicine at Imperial College London.
Read Edwina's story.
Ms Lorna Marson
Reader in Transplant Surgery at the University of Edinburgh, and Honorary Consultant Surgeon at the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh. Lorna is clinical lead for renal transplantation in Edinburgh, and led the development of antibody incompatible transplantation in the region.
Dr Sarah Hosgood
Senior Research Associate at the Department of Surgery, University of Cambridge. Area of expertise in normothermic machine perfusion, a revolutionary technique in transplantation surgery.
Dr Morag Mansley
Awarded a Kidney Research UK-funded non-clinical fellowship at The University of Edinburgh, where her work focuses on hypertension and identifying genetic signals used by steroid hormones to promote salt and water retention in the kidney.
Dr Rukshana Shroff
Consultant Paediatric Nephrologist at Great Ormond Street Hospital and looks after children with chronic kidney disease (CKD) and those on dialysis.
Dr Rachel Lennon
Honorary Consultant Paediatric Nephrologist awarded Senior Fellowship from the Wellcome Trust, to help identify therapeutic targets to treat chronic kidney disease.
We hope to highlight this element of the UK Renal Research Strategy, to show that senior research and professor roles offer prosperous careers for women and to encourage the sector to strive towards achieving a complete gender balance across the discipline.
Anyone interested in supporting our work to fund women in renal science should contact the Chief Executive’s office, call: 0300 303 1100; email: firstname.lastname@example.org