Women in science and vision research 2021
10 February 2021
Women represent half of the world’s population but account for less than a third of researchers in science worldwide.
Women and girls play a key role in the advancement of scientific knowledge and development of technology in their communities.
The gender gap is present at all levels of science, technology, engineering and mathematics – STEM - disciplines across the world. Although women have made tremendous progress towards increasing their participation in higher education, they are still under-represented in these fields.
Therefore, it is vital to encourage equal access to and participation in science. Diversity within research broadens the pool of inspiring researchers who can introduce fresh perspectives, new ideas and further creativity.
of students enrolled in STEM related fields are women.
of the STEM workforce in the UK is comprised of women.
To mark the importance of women and girls in science, meet some scientists we are proud to know and work with in Moorfields who are also inspiring role models for future generations.
Lee-Ann Coleman PhD, Trustee of Moorfields Eye Charity
Lee-Ann provides consultancy and training to scientific organisations and scientists. This work varies from analysing research conducted to helping researchers apply for research funding. She is also part of a team delivering training on publishing research.
Her original area of study was visual neuroscience. As a former active laboratory researcher, she has an understanding of scientific research which has been useful in her role as Chair of Moorfields Eye Charity Grants Committee.
It is exciting for me read the incredible research in eye development and disease being conducted at Moorfields and UCL.
Ever since Lee-Ann was young, she was always interested in how the world works, so it wasn’t surprising that she went on to do a science degree and a PhD.
Leaving the laboratory bench after her second postdoctoral position was a difficult decision. However, Lee-Ann reflects that she has been fortunate to work across many sectors since then, supporting science policy and scientists. Working in the medical research charity sector has shown her how fortunate the UK is in having committed charities and the important role patients, carers and the public play in medical research.
Being a woman in science has provided me with a ticket to travel the world, opportunities to work with amazing people and to have a varied and interesting career.
Lee-Ann says the most important thing for the future of women and girls in science is that “there should be no doubt that they can and should do anything that they set their minds to. We must do all we can to remove any barriers, perceived or real that prevent girls and women from pursuing a career in science. I would love the world to reach the point where it is no longer relevant to talk about the first woman to do something – and where a scientist is called just that.”
Roxanne Crosby-Nwaobi, Head of Research Nursing at Moorfields Eye Hospital
Roxanne is currently undertaking a wide range of activities. This includes no less than three fellowships, including a Florence Nightingale Foundation Aspiring Nurse Director Leadership Scholarship and NIHR Integrated Clinical Academic Career Clinical Lectureship. Another fellowship, the NIHR 70@70, is part of a programme that aims to increase awareness of and participation in research for nurses and midwives, including supporting clinical academic careers.
The clinical lectureship is a personal training and development award. As part of it, Roxanne will be developing behavioural change theoretical interventions to increase attendance to/engagement with patients who have not attended diabetic retinal screening for 3 years. These individuals are at increased risk of sight loss.
Beyond her own training, she teaches research and statistics at the UCL Institute of Ophthalmology. She is a board member of the RCN Ophthalmic Nursing forum providing training, education and a voice for ophthalmic nurses and patients. In addition, Roxanne is a Trustee of GlaucomaUK and a member of the BAME Vision Committee.
It is therefore of little surprise that Roxanne was always interested in pursuing a scientific career. With a talent for a range of subjects in school, Roxanne aspired to be either a paediatric neurosurgeon or a chemical engineer. Luckily for Moorfields and its patients, she ended up a Doctor of Ophthalmic Nursing.
Being a woman in science has meant that I can affect change at a local, national and international level and bring a different but equally important perspective to discussions. I’d like to think that I am a disruptive innovator.
Roxanne’s science career journey thus far has been both challenging and rewarding. Lessons she has learnt; persevere, network widely and pray continuously.
Roxanne says that “for future women and girls in science, it is important they continue to have a “seat” at the decision making tables, where we can advocate for our patients, colleagues and families. We can only have this “seat” if we continue to provide the evidence necessary for policy change at all levels.”
Jacqui van der Spuy, Associate Professor at the UCL Institute of Ophthalmology, Faculty of Brain Sciences
Jacqui van der Spuy is an Associate Professor at the UCL Institute of Ophthalmology. Much of her time is spent working together with her research team to advance scientific discoveries in inherited diseases affecting the brain and eye.
She is also involved in education at the postgraduate taught and research levels. As part of this, she co-directs and teaches on a Masters in Research in Brain Science programme at UCL. Jacqui is also the Departmental Graduate Tutor for postgraduate research students at the Institute.
My role is thus varied and exciting, from conducting research to working closely with students in the role of educator, tutor and mentor.
Jacqui always wanted to go into a scientific career and shares that when she first had her son, balancing this alongside her family life was quite tricky. She says her love of learning science means she is continuously discovering exciting and challenging things. This can be at the cutting edge of scientific advancements or new skills in leadership, management, teamwork and communication.
Being a woman in science has meant that I have been able to pursue my passion for scientific endeavour and curiosity, the ultimate goal of which is to benefit our wider society, and this is a great privilege.
Jacqui feels it is most important that “women and girls are given enough opportunities to shine in science and unlock their full potential. In some countries, this can mean something as basic as equal access to an education. In others, it is about changing mind-sets and appropriate mechanisms to create supportive environments and promote women in science.”
The future of women in science and research
Women’s contribution to cultivating knowledge and scientific developments have led to significant discoveries and advancements.
In order to drive change, it is important to foster positive environments and supportive networks which empower women and inspire the next generation of innovators and leaders. Ensuring equality, diversity and inclusion is what will ultimately shape the future of science and technology as we know it.