On International Day of Women and Girls in Science Healthscope’s CMO reflects on her own experience

Health Industry Hub | February 12, 2021 |
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Medical: Marking International Day of Women and Girls in Science, Healthscope’s Chief Medical Officer, Associate Professor Victoria Atkinson reflects on her experience as a women in science, and on what healthcare organisations like Healthscope can do to support today’s purpose of promoting full and equal access to, and participation in, science for women and girls.

Victoria Victoria Atkinson is a CMO, a Cardiothoracic Surgeon, and recently added an Associate Professorship to your CV. When asked how she would describe her journey as a woman in science, she said “When I was at school, I knew no limits. I was taught to follow my curiosity; it was an incredible gift. But that also meant no one showed me the limits others might try to place around me and the assumptions people would make about me being in science and medicine and ultimately surgery.

“I didn’t know science would be gendered.

“For a long time I did follow my curiosity in science, medicine and eventually cardiac surgery. I was fascinated by surgery and the impact I could have on people’s lives through science.

“On leaving university I realised how few women were doing what I wanted to do. It didn’t bother me, but other people kept pointing out the reasons why they thought women shouldn’t do surgery, and some of those people were in the position to propagate the status quo.

“But through determination and the support of mentors, both men and women, I found my way through to one of the most fulfilling and challenging scientific fields.

“At times being a novelty in my area has been exhausting and sometimes it has driven me, but most of all I hope that it has, in some small way made other girls follow their curiosity and I strive to pay it forward; show young women that they can follow it in their own way and to show young men the value of that diversity in science,” she added.

Gender stereotypes and gender-based inequalities continue to prevent many girls and women from taking up and remaining in careers in science across the world. UNESCO’s forthcoming Science Report shows that only 33% of researchers are women, despite the fact that they represent 45% and 55% of students at the Bachelor’s and Master’s levels of study respectively, and 44 per cent of those enrolled in PhD programmes.

Thinking back over her career, the advice she would give to her younger self would be “To never doubt the contribution you can make, even when your voice is different to those around you. But also to not become so caught up in forging a path, leading the charge, that you forget the reason you started out,” concluded Associate Professor Atkinson.

Women scientists are a source of inspiration for young girls around the world eager to enter scientific fields. As we celebrate the International Day of Women and Girls in Science, it is our duty to pave the way for them, to build a fairer and more equal future. 

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