The University of Newcastle, Australia

A voice for gender equity

Thursday, 9 March 2017

In an exciting step forward toward gender equity, Dr Nikola Bowden has been appointed to the NHMRC Women in Health Science working committee.

Dr Nikola Bowden

A former NHMRC Early Career Fellow, Nikola understands the challenges that our researchers face in attaining funding for their research.

A vocal and outspoken advocate of gender parity, Nikola is a member of the Australian Academy of Sciences  Early-Mid Career Researcher Forum (EMCR) and was also on the Women in Science Australia Executive Committee where she works with teams across the country to address barriers to gender equity. She is also a member of the UON science and gender equity (SAGE) self-assessment team.

It was through her role in the EMCR Forum committee that the opportunity to participate in the NHMRC Women in Science Committee arose. “When the grant outcomes for the NHMRC were announced in 2016 the gender bias was significant,” Nikola says.

“The EMCR Forum sent out emails and some tweets (on Twitter) asking early and mid-career researchers what they would do to address these issues. We then collated all the response and sent it through to the NHMRC.”

Not only were these responses taken on board for consideration – the NHMRC CEO Professor Anne Kelso AO put forward an invitation for a member of the committee to nominate for a position on the Women in Health Science Working Committee.

“The committee has been operating for around four years, but it was mostly made up of very senior professors,” Nikola says. “They wanted early to mid-career input and I was thrilled to be nominated and to have that nomination accepted.”

Nikola says that not only is it important that these committees hear the voices of early and mid-career women researchers, but those representing regional institutions as well. “We’re going to give advice on track record relative to opportunity. This is important not only from a gender perspective, but also from those in smaller regional institutions.”

“Ideally we shouldn’t have to have these committees, but the main purpose is to make sure that every year when the grants are announced there is no difference in the gender balance,” Nikola adds. “I’d like to see the committee spread beyond gender, as it’s now highlighted that these issues go further than just gender.”

The committee will meet in early April 2017, and Nikola is excited for this opportunity to share the knowledge and information she’s gathered over the years of being a vocal advocate for parity and equity in research in Australia.


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