Interview with Campaign Leader Vanessa Hall: Promote Women in Science!

By: Majken B. E. Christensen, KIF board member

Vanessa’s objective is clear: she wants to remove gender bias from the approval process in grant foundations. That is why she has launched the Promote Me campaign, where she has gathered facts from Danish foundations and launched a petition to support the promotion of women in science.

We wish to initiate a women’s network of science where we can use this platform to launch new campaigns such as Promote Me but addressing other relevant issues for women in science such as targeting universities so that more women get hired in science, women mentor programs, improving women scientist skills etc. Work is in progress to establish such a network that potentially branches across all universities in Denmark in the coming months.

– Vanessa Hall, 2018

We have interviewed the woman behind the campaign, Associate Professor at Copenhagen University and group leader of the Stem Cell Brain Group Vanessa Hall, and asked her why her campaign is important and which expectations she has. Vanessa also participated in KIF’s recent annual meeting, where she presented her initiative.

Gender Issues in Grant Foundations are Real

Vanessa Hall works in the department for “Anatomy, Biochemistry and Physiology” at Copenhagen University, where she has been Associate Professor the past 4 years. She is currently funded by her own grant from the Innovation Foundation, and already in her PhD she was doing promising research as her research resulted in the production of the very first cloned cows in Australia.

Today she works with ‘modeling the developing entorhinal cortex of the brain’ and is also initiator of the Promote Me campaign, which is her first campaign.

What is the Promote Me campaign?
It is a petition designed to target the grant foundations with specific goals at asking the foundations to increase the number of women on the council boards, asking the foundations to improve success rates of grants for women, asking them to consider anonymizing grants, asking them to look at gender biased decision making on the councils and asking them to make distribution of grants based on gender more visible in their annual reports.

Why did you initiate it?
I initiated it, because I couldn’t see a large change in the last 3 years following Jens Hjorth attempts to improve gender inequality by targeting Independent Research Foundation Denmark in 2015.

What impact do you hope and expect this campaign to have?
I hope that the grant foundations will recognize these issues and start to implement policies or actual changes that relate to the requested changes and relay/communicate their actions back to the scientific community.

You can see the video from the Promote Me campaign here:

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