WISE@QMUL hosted an evening talk and discussion with Amrita Ahluwalia at Charterhouse Square Campus, at 5-7 pm, on Wed 24th Feb .
As a beginning of her talk, Amrita gave an overview of her career path. It was inspiring to hear how she grew up as an individual researcher, especially the change from the isolate work as a PhD student to the collaborative work as in a group. Her research focuses on new prevention therapies for hypertension, using dietary interventions as well as pharmacology. She is the first female recipient of the GlaxoSmithKline prize in Clinical Pharmacology and the Winner of the WISE 2015 research award.
She encouraged young researchers to volunteer in and contribute to the learned society of theirs disciplines, as a good way to stay in touch with the academic communities. As a longstanding member of the British Pharmacological Society since 1989, she has contributed to and enthusiastically supported new initiatives that have promoted and advanced pharmacology in all its forms. She is the first Chair of the Society’s Women in Pharmacology group and as the editor-in-chief of the British Journal of Pharmacology.
With the statistics of career progression by gender at Queen Mary, UK and EU, she revealed a systemic problem, that of women achieving senior roles in research and academia. The number of women in the career ladder falls down drastically when it comes to the senior researcher level. She mentioned a lot of women researchers leave academia in their 30-35-year-old stage. There are various reasons for attrition, such as family, lack of support after career break, research assessments not considering the career break, difficult career progression- unconscious bias, perception about women and science – many feel like ‘imposters’.
Amrita then talked about the gender equality promoting initiatives she has been involved in, aiming to tackle the above systemic problem and to support other women in the profession. She established a Prize for Excellence in Pharmacology for Women, developed a mentoring scheme for the British Pharmacological Society and is campaigning for medical research charities to improve the position for women winning fellowships to take maternity leave. She also played a key part in QMUL’s School of Medicine and Dentistry receiving the Silver Athena SWAN award in April 2015.
At the end of her talk, she mentioned the work-life balance. She is very proud of her two sons and she said it is possible to work full time and succeed in both career and family. “It is very hard, though, so you need to have people to help you navigate in your career path.” She has received help from several brilliant mentors along the way; now as a role model, she is dedicated to mentoring and championing female researchers.
The audiences were from various career levels, from PhD students to senior researchers. The talk was highly praised and there were a lot of questions asked in the open discussion. Some feedbacks from the audiences: “excellent talk”, “fantastic speaker”, “very interesting and informative”, “very inspiring”, ”like most the statistical data”, “would like more talks like this about equality”.
WISE@QMUL: EVENING TALK AND DISCUSSION: AMRITA AHLUWALIA