Two valued supporters of the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute’s gender equity initiatives last night received the Philanthropy Australia 2016 Gender-wise Philanthropy Award.
Mr John Dyson and Ms Rose Gilder, the trustees of the Dyson Bequest, were presented with the award in recognition of their support of gender equity initiatives at the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute.
The Philanthropy Australia award recognises an individual or organisation showing leadership in funding initiatives that advance women and girls.
Mr Dyson and Ms Gilder’s support of female scientists at the institute began in 2009 when they provided the philanthropic support that enabled the appointment of the first Dyson Bequest fellow, Associate Professor Marnie Blewitt, for a period of five years. Through the Dyson Bequest they have subsequently supported Dr Tracy Putoczki for a further five years (2015-2019).
Mr Dyson and Ms Gilder’s support of these women scientists has helped the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute address an issue that exists within the national and international medical research sectors: a gender imbalance at senior levels.
Institute director Professor Doug Hilton said this issue was exemplified by too few women holding positions where they led research laboratories or research divisions.
“One of the difficulties confronting women is that the transitional period from postdoctoral scientist to senior roles often corresponds to the early years of having and raising children, with a strong potential for career disruption,” Professor Hilton said.
“If we do not support women through this period we lose half of our talent pool, which compromises the institute’s ability to fully realise its research objectives. The support provided by John and Rose, and others like them, has been transformational. It has given young female researchers the financial support necessary for them to develop their careers to a point where they are established scientists who are competitive in securing much sought after research funding.”
One of the major barriers to women progressing in medical research has been identified as access to convenient, quality childcare.
As well as providing fellowship funding for young female scientists, Mr Dyson and Ms Gilder, through the Dyson Bequest, have made a $1 million founding gift to support the construction of a childcare centre on the institute’s Parkville campus.
“As a family we are delighted to be able to provide some financial support to the next generation of great Australian medical researchers,” Mr Dyson said.
“Ensuring that we retain our best and brightest researchers is essential and this is doubly so for female researchers who historically have faced many more challenges in attracting research dollars early in their careers.”
In addition to making these generous gifts, Mr Dyson and Ms Gilder are influential advocates in the philanthropic sector. Mr Dyson also serves as chairman of the institute’s Advocacy and Support Committee, a sub-committee of the board.
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