#HeForShe in science and research

A growing number of men are joining the movement to boost gender equality for the benefit of society

Dr. B. Mario Pinto, President of the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada, is co-organizing the Gender Summit in Montreal in November 2017. Here, he is being interviewed for an upcoming Elsevier video. (Photo by Alison Bert)

Women were not the only ones speaking at the recent Gender Summit in Brussels. Men, too, spoke out about the challenges posed by gender inequality and how to address this issue – in conversations as well as formal presentations. Afterwards, one of them used the phrase “He for She” to describe the benefits of having men advocate for gender equity on behalf of not only women but society as a whole. It was Dr. B. Mario Pinto, President of the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada, who will be organizing the 11th Gender Summit in Canada this fall.

Dr. Pinto was referring to the HeForShe movement, which was created by UN Women as a platform for men and boys to “become change agents for the achievement of gender equality.”

So why is it important? Dr. Pinto acknowledged the reality that some people are still more likely to be influenced by men. Plus, with men still holding the majority of senior management positions in academia and industry, they’re in a position to spread the word further.

With the benefits of gender diversity for science and society becoming increasingly apparent, more men are joining the conversation and becoming advocates.

Dr. Pinto was at the Gender Summit because of his own passion for diversity – and to get ideas for the Gender Summit he is organizing in Montreal next November. “This is one of my personal interests: how one achieves equality of representation and how one embraces diversity,” he said. “Because I really do believe that from that diversity, one draws strength. It makes very little sense to me to have portions of society excluded, and I really hope that one day, total representation will be reflected in the social fabric and in society in general.”

For the Gender Summit North America in Montreal, he plans to take a different tack:

We would like to examine this issue from an expanded viewpoint in terms of pluralism – in terms of diversity in all its dimensions: culture, ethnicity, religion, and biological sex differences, because they’re not independent variables.

For example, in some cultures, a woman may not participate fully in the S&T workforce because of concerns that she may lose her status in the family.

Serge Villemure, director of the Chairs for Women in Science and Engineering at NSERC, is co-organizing the Gender Summit North America in Montreal in November. (Photo by Alison Bert)

For his co-organizer Serge Villemure, director of the Chairs for Women in Science and Engineering at NSERC, “connections and exchanges” that take place at the Gender Summit are invaluable. “We can’t do gender equity and policy in silos,” said Villemure, who works to integrate diversity and gender equity considerations into policies and programs across his agency. “There’s a lot of evidence, a lot of research, a lot of best practices that exist that we need to learn from and adapt. The connections and the conveying of the evidence of the research are very important.”

Ron Mobed, CEO, ElsevierThat evidenced-based approach formed the basis of a new analytical report from Elsevier: Gender in the Global Research Landscape. In the introduction, Elsevier CEO Ron Mobed states:

Diversity is integral to innovation … and one of the key aspects of diversity is gender. As a steward of world research, Elsevier acknowledges a responsibility to promote gender equality in STEM. It is critical to examine the impact of gender disparity on research and continue building global initiatives that address these issues.

Londa Schiebinger, PhDElsevier Chairman Youngsuk “YS” Chi addressed the far-reaching importance of gender in his presentation at the global policy dialogue organized by South Africa’s National Research Foundation during the 2016 annual meeting of the Global Research Council in New Delhi. He spoke of Elsevier’s work with Prof. Londa Schiebinger of Stanford University, who created the Gendered Innovations database to show the importance of including female subjects in scientific research. Elsevier’s goal is to develop a white paper on best practices for addressing sex and gender in research and urge their adoption, he said: “Eventually, we want the entire STM publishing industry to take advantage of these best practices to ensure gender is being properly considered in all research.”

Indeed, gender diversity – or its absence – impacts fields as broad as economics, education and healthcare. That’s why gender equality is part of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals and the report Elsevier released on the eve of their adoption.

When gender equality is acknowledged as a sustainability issue, both men and women recognize they have a big stake in the issue – and perhaps a little guilt.

For Aaron Maxwell, PhD, a data scientist and science policy intern for the Council on Canadian Academies, "guilt" and the chance to "expand my horizons" drew him to the Gender Summit. Here, he is being interviewed for an upcoming Elsevier video. (Photo by Alison Bert)

Dr. Aaron Maxwell, a data scientist from Canada, flashed a smile as he displayed the badge that granted him entry to the European Parliament. It was the opening session of the Gender Summit in Brussels, and this was his ticket to join a global conversation about gender in science – the progress that has been made and how to tackle the many challenges that remain.

But this conversation would not have interested him in the past. Like many people in science, Dr. Maxwell was unaware of any problems caused by gender inequality. In fact, he readily admitted that “guilt” played a large role in bringing him to this summit.

“This is going to sound weird,” he said, “but a friend of mine once showed me a photo of what it feels like to be the only woman in the room when people are trying to explain things to you. And one of the men was just sleeping in the corner oblivious to the problem. And that’s how I really felt; for a long time in my life, I didn’t realize there were such significant problems.”

When he and his wife were doing their PhD, he said, they noticed they were having different interactions in similar situations. “That really brought home that idea,” said Dr. Maxwell, a science policy intern for the Council on Canadian Academies. “Now, I’m really excited just to be here and to listen to all these different solutions and ways of thinking and just expand my horizons.”

Afterwards, Dr. Maxwell said he came away with plenty of ideas for his work in science policy: It was inspiring “seeing all these talented and brilliant people doing science policy with a focus on gender and really trying to drive home the message that there’s a problem we need to fix – and it’s not something that’s just going to go away on its own.”

Empowering Unlimited KnowledgeWomen bring new perspectives to science – as researchers and as subjects of research. That’s why we support gender equity at Elsevier and the Elsevier Foundation through global initiatives like the Gender Summits; career grants and awards for female researchersprograms that promote diversity in STEM; and by embracing diversity and inclusion in our own workplace. By promoting gender parity, we can empower science and people to go beyond the expected, opening unlimited opportunities for research and the world. For more stories about people and projects empowered by knowledge, we invite you to visit Empowering Knowledge.



Written by

Alison Bert, DMA

Written by

Alison Bert, DMA

As Executive Editor of Strategic Communications at Elsevier, Dr. Alison Bert works with contributors around the world to publish daily stories for the global science and health communities. Previously, she was Editor-in-Chief of Elsevier Connect, which won the 2016 North American Excellence Award for Science & Education.

Alison joined Elsevier in 2007 from the world of journalism, where she was a business reporter and blogger for The Journal News, a Gannett daily newspaper in New York. In the previous century, she was a classical guitarist on the music faculty of Syracuse University. She received a doctorate in music from the University of Arizona, was Fulbright scholar in Spain, and studied in a master class with Andrés Segovia.


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