Franklin Women is Australia’s only community for women working in health and medical research related careers.
Our Mission is to empower women to pursue rewarding careers across the health and medical research sector
Our guiding Values are to be: innovative, influential, inclusive and inspiring!
To carry out our mission we are going about things a bit differently. Unlike many organisations in the health and medical research space, Franklin Women is not a not-for-profit or a charity. We are a for-profit social enterprise. This means we aim to derive income from business activities to bring about some social good – investing in our members!
We believe keeping women in health science careers is something worth investing in. We hope you will get a lot out of being a part of Franklin Women but also feel good about supporting the cause.
We hope to achieve our goals in a number of ways. By…
building a community of like-minded women, offering support and opportunities;
introducing and advocating for initiatives that address barriers faced by women in health and medical research careers; and
providing training opportunities in important skills outside of the technical sciences;
showcasing talented women in the field, their diverse career pathways and the impact of their work.
Dr Sarah Frost
Molecular Oncology Group, Children’s Cancer Research Unit, The Kid’s Research Institute
Dr Amy Vassallo
Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Cancer Research Division, Cancer Council NSW
Research Affiliate, The University of Sydney
A/Prof Anita Heywood
School of Public Health and Community Medicine, University of New South Wales
Dr Magda Ellis
Senior analyst, THEMA consulting
Dr Amalie Dyda
Australian Institute of Health Innovation/Department of Health Systems and Populations, Macquarie University
Dr Devanshi Seth
HEAD, Alcoholic Liver Disease Program, Centenary Institute of Cancer Medicine and cell Biology.
Clinical Associate Professor, Faculty of Medicine and Health, The University of Sydney
Ms Harriet Swearman
PhD Student, Westmead Fertility Centre, Institute for Reproductive Medicine, Westmead Hospital Sydney, Medicine & Health, University of Sydney.
In academia, the disparities between genders increase with career progression, with fewer women holding senior scientific academic positions than men. Similarly, the National Health and Medical Research Council in Australia report that more than 50% of applicants for early career research fellowships are women, however women account for a very small proportion of applicants for their more senior fellowships.
So, it is evident that we are losing women from the health and medical research academic career pathway. What is even worse is that anecdotally, it seems we are not only losing many scientifically trained women (and some men!) from academia but from the health sciences sector altogether because of a perceived lack of skills and/or opportunities to transition into non-academic careers. We are effectively losing all that science know-how and passion, often after an investment of 8 years or more of tertiary education.
The current grant-based funding system, as well as cultural barriers within the field, contributes to these disparities. But this space seems to be changing (hooray!). Many peak bodies in Australia such as the National Health and Medical Research Council and the Australian Academy of Science have gender equity on the agenda. In addition, conversations around the need for people skilled in health sciences in non-academic roles are finally happening.
These top-down policy changes are important, but so are grassroots efforts to support, promote and inspire women working in health and medical research related fields. This is where Franklin Women hopes to contribute.
If you want more info on what is being done in the women in science space, we have compiled a great list of resources and readings in the members’ section of our website.
What’s in a name?
Rosalind Franklin inspired our name.
You may know of her work, or you may not. If you have time to read about her story do, as it is fascinating both with respect to the science and also to see what it was like as a female scientist in the early 1900s.
A brief run down…
Rosalind graduated from Cambridge in 1945 with a doctorate in physical chemistry. After a short stint in Paris where she learnt the technique of X-ray crystallography, she joined a research group at King’s College in London.
During her short career (Rosalind died from ovarian cancer at the young age of 38), she researched the structure of many biologics including the tobacco mosaic and polio viruses. However, the research she is most well known for is that of the structure of DNA.
By using X-ray diffraction, Rosalind captured an image of DNA (famously referred to as ‘Photo 51’) that led to the discovery of its double-helix structure. Without her knowledge, this photo was shown to her colleagues James Watson and Francis Crick at Cambridge University who correctly interpreted this finding and published it in the journal Nature in 1953. While Rosalind also published in that issue, it was not the primary publication. Watson, Crick and another researcher, Wilkins, received the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for this work in 1962. The Nobel Prize is not awarded posthumously so Rosalind’s contribution was not acknowledged. Some say it would not have been even if she was alive, but we will never know!
What we do know is that her legacy as a pioneering health and medical researcher and as a strong, intelligent and resilient woman is definitely recognised today.
If you want to read her story there are numerous books. One we enjoyed is Rosalind Franklin: The Dark Lady of DNA by Brenda Maddox.
The four publications in Nature and one in The Journal of Experimental Medicine describing the evidence that underpinned the discovery of the structure of DNA are available online.