Today, 11 February, marks the International Day of Women and Girls in Science 2021 as well as the final day in Porterhouse’s countdown to this event.
UNESCO data from 2014 to 2016 tell us that only around 30% of female students in higher education study STEM-related subjects, with women representing less than a third of scientific researchers globally . This prompted the United Nations General Assembly to adopt resolution A/RES/70/212 in 2015, declaring 11 February each year as the International Day of Women and Girls in Science .
Studies have highlighted that women in STEM-related fields publish less, are paid less for their research and often do not progress as far as men in their careers . Despite these challenges, women in STEM have continually fought for their place at the table, producing ground-breaking research and inspiring future generations of female scientists . As such, the primary aim of this initiative is to grant equal access to and participation in science, to achieve gender equality and the empowerment of women in science .
The countdown to this event
As part of our countdown to the International Day of Women and Girls in Science 2021, Porterhouse’s Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) group have produced materials to celebrate the women in healthcare communications. Alongside these pieces, we have included a short biography of a famous female scientist for each day of the countdown.
Day 1: The article produced for the first day of our countdown was published on a very important day in the calendar of women’s history, on what would have been the 200th birthday of Dr Elizabeth Blackwell. We discussed the legacy of Dr Blackwell as a pioneer in medical education for women in a time when many were forced out of the male-dominated profession simply because of their gender. The full article is available here
Day 2: The article produced for the second day of our countdown focused on the gender diversity within healthcare communications. As a STEM-related field, the healthcare communications industry is rather unique in the fact that the majority of our workforce – a massive 76% – is female . We discussed the many benefits of gender diversity in the workplace and encouraged other STEM-related industries to follow suit. The full article is available here
Day 3: Alice Ball was an African American chemist who is best known for developing an injectable chaulmoogra oil extract, which became the most effective treatment for leprosy until the 1940s. She became the first African American and the first woman to receive a master’s degree from the University of Hawaii.
Day 4 The Italian neurobiologist Rita Levi-Montalcini was joint winner of the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1986 for the discovery of nerve growth factor. Her contributions to this discovery of have provided a deeper understanding of many areas of modern medicine, including dementia, wound healing and cancer.
Day 5: In 1947, Marie Maynard Daly was the first African American woman to receive a PhD. She became an instructor at Howard University, Washington, D.C. and began her research into the composition and metabolism of components of the nucleus. She went on to develop programmes to increase the number of ethnic minorities in medical schools and graduate science programmes and, in 1988, established a scholarship fund for African Americans at Queens College, New York.
Day 6: On the sixth day of our countdown, we produced an article discussing the timely issue of juggling parenthood with remote working during the COVID-19 pandemic. We touched on the struggles experienced by working parents who are dividing their time between work and home-schooling their children and how this has affected their mental health. The full article is available here
Days 7 and 8:
In the seventh and eighth days of our countdown to the International Day of Women and Girls in Science, we shared the career timelines of two female members of the senior management team at Porterhouse, Alison Washer and Erica Cave. The primary aim of providing these timelines is to increase the transparency of how STEM-related backgrounds can lead to careers in healthcare communications and how women can progress to the most senior-level positions within our industry. We also hope that, by sharing these career timelines, we can inspire junior-level employees throughout the healthcare communications industry to strive for senior-level positions.
Find Alison’s timeline here
Find Erica’s timeline here
We hope that the materials produced by the D&I group at Porterhouse in celebration of women in healthcare communications have been both informative and inspiring.
To follow and interact with this campaign on social media, search for and post using the #WomenInScience hashtag.
As a final take-home message, we would like to leave you with this quote from the UN Women website:
“Science reflects the people who make it. The world needs science, and science needs women and girls.” 
- United Nations. International Day of Women and Girls in Science: 11 February. Available at: https://www.un.org/en/observances/women-and-girls-in-science-day. Accessed February 2021.
- UN Women. In Focus: International Day of Women and Girls in Science. Available at: https://www.unwomen.org/en/news/in-focus/international-day-of-women-and-girls-in-science. Accessed February 2021.
- Paramount Recruitment. Healthcare Communications Salary & Insight Survey: Summary Report 2020 – UK. Available at: https://pararecruit.com/storage/app/media/salary_surveys/Healthcare-Comms-Salary-and-Insight-Survey-Summary-Report-2020-UK-Paramount-Recruitment.pdf. Accessed February 2021.
Author: Jack Gibbons, Associate Editor, Porterhouse Medical