Emory Women In Neuroscience

By Meera Modi and Rebecca Roffman

Originally published Summer 2009.

sulcus102It is a major, recognized problem in the field of neuroscience today that, although many young, female scientists obtain a PhD, very few of them successfully attain assistant professorships and even fewer of them are promoted to tenured associate and full professorships. Currently, the Neuroscience Program consists of 87 graduate students, 63 of whom are women (72%). This dichotomy is not reflected in our program faculty, of which only 16 of 96 professors are women (16%). The Emory Women in Neuroscience group was started this fall as a way to not only explore this disparity here at Emory, but also to address it and the different ways by which men and women function in the world of academia.

sulcus103The Emory Neuroscience Program is not unique in these skewed sex ratios of both our student body and our faculty population, and we felt that this was a problem that needed to be addressed at a local level. Currently, the Society for Neuroscience maintains a Committee for Women in Neuroscience (C-WIN), established in 2005, that is charged with “increasing awareness of women’s issues in the field,” “advancing interests of women in neuroscience,” and “fostering networking and mentoring opportunities for young women pursuing neuroscience.” This organization primarily functions at national and international levels and as a result, has a greater impact for women further along in their careers, rather than students. A local organization was needed to develop a strong network of female scientists, including female Ph.D. and post-doctoral candidates here at Emory.

It has been hypothesized that the lack of female promotion in academia is due to the shortage of female role models and mentors. We propose to assuage this problem here at Emory by organizing the Emory Women in Neuroscience Collaboration (E-WIN). The purpose of this organization is to establish relationships between the female students in the Neuroscience Graduate Program (the majority of whom work for male PIs) and the female faculty members associated with the program. From the professors, the students will learn how to deal with issues relevant to women in academia, like career advancement, balancing work and family commitments, and achieving academic success. We also hope that these informal mentoring relationships will assist our students throughout their careers. Through these mentorships and the programming offered by E-WIN, we hope to provide young scientists with the tools to be successful and productive in their chosen field, whether it be academia, industry, teaching, or something else entirely.

E-WIN meetings are held in a very casual format with a pot-luck dinner in the home of one of our students. Our first meeting was held this winter and was a tremendous success. With great turnout from both students and faculty, the group focused on identifying key issues and brainstorming on ideas for content of future meetings. Our second meeting was held this spring, with invited speaker Julia Melker, an Associate Professor at the Georgia Tech School of Public Policy. Julia spoke about her research on networking and the differences between how men and women network. This was followed up by a lively discussion on networking in general and how the E-WIN group can use some of the information highlighted by Julia’s research to network more successfully throughout their careers.

If you are interested in joining the E-WIN listserv to hear about future events please email emorywin@gmail.com. 

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