Gender equity in science: Canadian researchers provide evidence and best practices in a special issue of The Lancet

Imogen Coe
Imogen Coe in London (photo by The Lancet)

In a special issue of The Lancet, titled “Advancing women in science, medicine and global health” CSMB Vice-President Dr. Imogen Coe published a review article that discusses a series of concrete measures and organisational best practices to promote gender equity and equality in science and medicine.

As stated in the article: “We survey approaches and insights that have helped to identify and remove systemic bias and barriers in science and medicine, and propose tools that will help organisational change toward gender equality. We describe tools that include formal legislation and mandated quotas at national or large-scale levels (eg, gender parity), techniques that increase fairness (eg, gender equity) through facilitated organisational cultural change at institutional levels, and professional development of core competencies at individual levels.”

The review proposes a reflection on finding solutions to make science and medicine more inclusive and equitable.

Dr. Imogen Coe attended the launch of the Lancet special issue in London, and she noted a strong presence of the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR).  “The presence of CIHR shows they want to address bias and they need the engagement of the community.  The CSMB commits to supporting the tri-councils, and particularly CIHR and NSERC, as they work towards more inclusive and thus stronger science.”

The CSMB also applauds Honourable Kirsty Duncan, Minister of Science and Sport, who unveiled the draft Made-in Canada Athena SWAN Charter, and announced the creation of a new fund to foster equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI) in research. View announcement here:

In the same issue of the Lancet, another group of Canadian researchers, led by Dr. Holly Witteman at Université Laval, investigated whether gender gaps in research funding were due to evaluation of the applicant or the science. By comparing success rates of men and women in CIHR’s Project and Foundation funding streams, these researchers found that:

“Programmes that fund people, not projects, might reproduce common societal biases. Funders, institutions, journals, societies, and individual researchers might all have roles to play to ensure that peer review is fair and rigorous. We recommend funders focus assessment on the science rather than the scientist, measure and report funding by relevant applicant characteristics, and develop policies to mitigate effects of all forms of bias.”

The Canadian Society for Molecular Biosciences is committed to promoting Equity, Diversity and Inclusion in science. We encourage our members to read the whole issue in The Lancet:

View the launch on Youtube




The Lancet | VOLUME 393, ISSUE 10171, P587-593, FEBRUARY 09, 2019

Organisational best practices towards gender equality in science and medicine

Prof Imogen R Coe, PhD, Ryan Wiley, PhD, Prof Linda-Gail Bekker, PhD


The Lancet| VOLUME 393, ISSUE 10171, P531-540, FEBRUARY 09, 2019

Are gender gaps due to evaluations of the applicant or the science? A natural experiment at a national funding agency

Holly O Witteman, PhD,  Michael Hendricks, PhD, Prof Sharon Straus, MD, Prof Cara Tannenbaum, MD


Bias against funding Canada’s female scientists revealed in study