Gender Equality at the Case CCC

Guest Author: Ruth Keri, PhD

This past month, Gary Gilliland, Director of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, penned a commentary for the Association of American Cancer Institutes, emphasizing the need for women and other underrepresented groups in science and describing his goals for gender parity within his Center (read the full commentary). He and his colleagues identified two essential areas for moving towards gender equity in science. These include increasing the number of female role models and mentors as well as improving support for young female researchers with families by including them as essential collaborators in proposals led by more senior scientists. We strongly agree with both of these approaches as well as ensuring that women are included in leadership positions with our own Cancer Center and advocating for salary equity at all ranks. We are making strides in both areas.  

Currently, two women investigators serve as Associate Directors of the Center whereas there were none on the Executive Committee just five years ago. In addition, the School of Medicine has reached near parity in mean salaries for Assistant and Associate Professors in the Basic Sciences while the School of Engineering reports parity for all ranks.  

While these measures are informative, they do not capture the complexities of a matrix Cancer Center such as our own. Thus, we will be conducting our own assessment of rank, leadership positions, clinical trial leadership, salary, publications, and grant holdings of our membership by gender. Given the nature of our structure, this will be a challenging exercise, but one that we feel is essential as we develop approaches to improve our ability to ensure a supportive and rewarding environment for women investigators.

Even without these data, there are untapped opportunities to increase the accomplishments and visibility of women in our Center. One of the most impactful of these is encouraging our senior female members to participate in the mentorship committees of our junior female and male faculty, providing both genders with roadmaps to long-term success. In addition, our future faculty search committees will be emphasizing the recruitment of senior women who can serve as additional role models and leaders. Lastly, we encourage an open dialog and welcome additional suggestions to ensure that we are capitalizing on our diversity to make new discoveries and transition them to clinical care.

Ruth Keri, PhD is Associate Director for Basic Research at the Case Comprehensive Cancer Center.