Organisational best practices towards gender equality in science and medicine

Elsevier, The Lancet, Volume 393, Issue 10171, 9–15 February 2019, Pages 587-593.
Authors: 
Imogen Coe, Ryan Wiley and Linda-Gail Bekker

In August 2018, the president of the World Bank noted that “‘Human capital’—the potential of individuals—is going to be the most important long-term investment any country can make for its people's future prosperity and quality of life”. Nevertheless, leaders and practitioners in academic science and medicine continue to be unaware of and poorly educated about the nature, extent, and impact of barriers to full participation of women and minorities in science and medicine around the world. This lack of awareness and education results in failures to fully mobilise the human capital of half the population and limits global technological and medical advancements. The chronic lack of recruitment, promotion, and retention of women in science and medicine is due to systemic, structural, organisational, institutional, cultural, and societal barriers to equity and inclusion. These barriers must be identified and removed through increased awareness of the challenges combined with evidence-based, data-driven approaches leading to measurable targets and outcomes. In this Review, we discuss these issues and highlight actions that could achieve gender equality in science and medicine. 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. This Review is not intended to be an extensive analysis of all the literature currently available on achieving gender equality in academic medicine and science, but rather, a reflection on finding multifactorial solutions.