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Kidney Research UK celebrates women in science and champions gender equality

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Leading charity, Kidney Research UK is celebrating women in science and championing gender equality.

Following International Day for Women and Girls in Science, the charity is celebrating the female researchers it funds and their achievements in tackling kidney disease, as well as drawing attention to the challenging circumstances that some will have faced as they developed their careers.

Kidney Research UK is also shining a spotlight on the recommendations put forward by the first ever UK Renal Research Strategy. The strategy aims to ensure equal opportunities for female scientists, with one of the recommendations being flexible support for researchers taking career breaks in order that those returning to work can continue to contribute to the innovation agenda in the UK.

Whilst 65 per cent of early career researchers in biomedical sciences are female, a huge drop off rate is reported when looking at progression to professor level with less than one in five biomedical professor positions across the research sector currently held by women.

Sandra Currie, chief executive of Kidney Research UK, said, “The research funded by Kidney Research is chosen entirely on the basis of scientific merit.”

“The fact that the proportion of female researchers that we fund has increased ten-fold in the last decade is a great sign for women in science.”

“The UK Renal Research Strategy has identified hurdles that have to be overcome for such talent to flourish.”

“We are very proud of all of our researchers who are helping us find ways to treat, alleviate and hopefully, one day, cure kidney disease.”

“The fact that so many of them are women, and that they may have had added obstacles to get over in their career paths makes their achievements even greater.”

Kidney Research UK currently reports a balanced 50/50 split of male and female researchers leading the projects it funds to find treatments and cures for kidney disease. This is a significant increase in the last decade, with only five per cent of the charity’s grants being awarded to female researchers in 2006.

Speaking about the strategy, one of the charity’s female researchers, Dr Claire Sharpe said, “I’m extremely proud to work with an organisation such as Kidney Research UK which supports and funds an equal measure of male and female researchers.”

“When I first started my career, as a woman and a working mother I was faced with a number of challenges that are slowly but surely diminishing thanks to the recognition of gender equality across the sector and as a result of initiatives such as Athena SWAN.”

“However, whilst 55% of people embarking on careers in medicine are female this number drops significantly to 15% at professor level on average so gender inequality is certainly an industry wide problem, not just that of the biomedical sector.”

“For institutions, it’s about looking at the data and trying to work out why there is a gender imbalance and what you can do to address it.”

“Practical support and mentoring would also help female scientists air the difficulties they are facing and would provide the opportunity for collaborative solutions to form, thus helping them develop their careers as much as possible.”

Kidney Research UK hopes to highlight this element of the UK Renal Research Strategy, to show that senior research and professor roles offer prosperous careers for women and to encourage the sector to strive towards achieving a complete gender balance across the discipline.

Kidney Research UK is the leading UK charity committed to developing treatments, patient information and raising vital public awareness to help save lives.

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