The Heart Research Institute Announces Women in Research Grant

Awards and Achievements

The Heart Research Institute is proud of the fact that 65% of our staff are female, including three group leaders.

However we are aware that medical research is a difficult career path at the best of times, and that women who chose to have a family can face an additional (and unique) set of challenges that their male colleagues do not. 

According to Professor Warwick Anderson, CEO of the National Health and Medical Research Centre, about 63% of applicants for early career fellowships are women. By the time we get to the most senior level of fellowship (Professor) this drops to 11% of applicants. “We are throwing away half the talent of the country” he says.

HRI Group Leader Dr Mary Kavurma knows first-hand the struggles of balancing a family and science. “As a committed researcher and a mother, I felt guilty that I was not spending enough time with my family,” she says. “And I felt guilty that my work was suffering too.” Mary explains that while you might need time off, the work of your peers marches on. “It’s tough to stay competitive, because you are competing with people who are not taking time off,” she says, “I feel like sometimes women in research have to work twice as hard”.

With the generous support of a NAB Community Grant we decided to do something to about this. 

‘I am very pleased to announce the inaugural Women in Medical Research Career Re-start Grant to research staff at HRI,’ said HRI Scientific Director Clare Hawkins.

‘The Career Re-start Grant is an award of $60K, which will be awarded to a member of HRI research staff who is either currently pregnant, on maternity leave, or has returned from maternity leave in the last two years.’ 

A pilot initiative which was developed in conjunction with The Florey Institute of Neuroscience and Mental Health, this grant will provide direct financial support which will lessen the impact that maternity leave can have on a research career.

The purpose of the pilot grant is to create a complete format that we intend to share with other institutes in the hope that more of the industry implement similar programs for their staff.

The purpose of the pilot grant is to create a complete format that we intend to share with other institutes in the hope that more of the industry implement similar programs for their staff.

To tie in with this announcement, the HRI’s General Manager of Marketing & Strategy and (acting) Fundraising Director Richard Wylie was last week invited to outline the grant and the HRI’s commitment to women researchers at the Gender Equity Session of The Association of Australian Medical Research Institutes conference in Canberra.

"At The Heart Research Institute we are acutely aware of the vital role women play in our research. Not simply because cardiovascular disease is the single biggest killer of Australian women… but because the majority of our workforce is female,” said Richard. “This grant has been designed to assist some of our brightest scientific minds, at a particularly vulnerable time in their careers, when they choose to start a family. The purpose of this initiative is to help correct the unintended inequity female researchers encounter, that their male colleagues do not. Hopefully this will help to keep more talented female researchers in the industry and working to make the scientific breakthroughs of tomorrow” he added. 

We’d like to thank NAB very much for their commitment to funding this pilot project. Who knows, maybe the woman who receives this grant will be responsible for the next great breakthrough that saves hundreds of thousands of lives?

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