Responsibility for the caregiving of children, an elderly family member, and/or family members with an illness or disability falls overwhelmingly onto women in Canada. Recent data from StatsCan shows that women spend the most time providing care on top of their regular working hours, and suffer the most mental and physical distress as a result.
Women scientists are no different, and their caregiving responsibilities can have a negative impact on their work, including hampering their availability to travel to conferences, an important avenue for promoting their research, networking and advancing their careers. Win4Science, an initiative that aims to help women succeed in STEM fields at McGill, has sought to address this issue since it was founded in 2017 by members of the Department of Pharmacology and Therapeutics to increase the visibility of women faculty members in the life sciences and beyond. Its 2018 report noted that, “Childcare support at conferences, as well as funding for women with children to travel to conferences was a barrier for women in science with children. There is currently no known funding available for mothers in science to travel with their children to conferences, or to support childcare at home when the mother is away.” Prof.
Win4Science launches caregiver travel award
To fill this gap, Win4Science launched the Caregiver Travel Award last year, expanding the definition to encompass all kinds of caregiving. The purpose of the award is to provide financial assistance to any STEM trainee with significant caregiver responsibilities (e.g., caring for a child, parent or grandparent) that prevent them from attending conferences, speaker engagements or job interviews. The value of the award may be up to $1,000 and depends on the needs of the applicant and/or availability of funds.
Win4Science started a crowdfunding campaign during last year’s McGill24 event to address this issue. The funds that were raised were matched by the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, which provided the new program with over $10,000. With the support of generous donors, Win4Science was able to create a scholarship that allows caregivers to apply for financial assistance each year. Applications for 2023 just wrapped up last month for travel for the coming year.
Win4Science will be raising funds for this program again this year! If you’re able to do so, you can donate here: https://crowdfunding.mcgill.ca/ui/main/p/win4science1
Support for working parents
One of the main goals of Win4Science remains to advocate on behalf of women to effect small changes at the institutional level that make a big impact. Win4Science co-founder Lisa Münter, PhD, Associate Professor in the Department of Pharmacology and Therapeutics points out that institutional changes can mitigate the pressure on women who leave academia temporarily to start a family. One such idea proposed by Prof. Münter is for McGill to expand its daycare program, opening more spots and extending its hours to accommodate the unconventional work schedules of academics in teaching and research positions.
Women helping women
In addition to these newer initiatives, Win4Science’s ongoing projects continue to grow and inspire, including its seminar series celebrating the contributions of women in science, a spotlight article series to highlight the careers of female faculty members, and a mentorship program pairing senior female researchers with small groups of female trainees. “Women tend to feel more comfortable working in groups,” says Prof. Munter. “In these groups, there are usually three mentees and one mentor, and the program provides these groups of women with a safe space to discuss topics such as microaggressions and power dynamics as well as career growth. The outcome is that the mentors share advice and their experience regarding how to handle these situations, how to navigate them and really act as role models for young trainees who are starting out in their careers.”
Learn more about Win4Science
To learn more about this platform and the work being done by women faculty in the life sciences, visit:
Instagram story: Win4Science Friday Figures (profiles of illustrious women scientists)
Donate to the WIN4Science McGill24 crowdfunding campaign on March 15!
Win4Science: bridging the gap for women in science (Health e-News)