In a recent survey by the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society (LLS), most Americans recognized that women are critical to scientific discoveries in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM).
LLS highlighted the important role numerous women have fulfilled in the organization. Since its founding nearly 70 years ago, LLS has sought to prioritize funding and recognition for women scientists, physicians, social workers, and nurses working in STEM fields.
The survey was conducted as part of an effort to encourage more women to join cancer research and included 1,000 responses from U.S. citizens. Responders showed a desire to elevate women working in these fields.
For instance, eight in 10 adults believe women are critical to scientific discoveries, and seven in 10 adults (and eight in 10 women) believe more women should take up leadership roles.
“I am keenly aware of the opportunities and obstacles that exist, and look for every opportunity to encourage women in this field. There are so many outstanding women who support LLS in our goal to cure blood cancers, including leukemia, lymphoma and myeloma,” Gwen Nichols, LLS’ chief medical officer, said in a press release. “We are honored to shine a spotlight on just a few who represent the amazing work being done.”
LLS funding efforts have been defined by many women scientists as significant to foster early careers and help scientists accelerate their discoveries from the lab to clinical trials.
In light of this survey’s findings, LLS is celebrating women whose roles are pivotal for improving outcomes for patients with blood cancers and other diseases. Some of them are scientists. Others are leading some of LLS’ most important services, the organization said.
The survey began by highlighting disparities in education and academic and professional achievement. Studies have shown that women do not reach the highest levels of leadership roles at the same pace as men, even though women make up 50 percent of medical school applicants. According to the LLS survey, Americans believe women bring unique perspectives to scientific inquiry that can lead to breakthrough discoveries, and more women in STEM fields can inspire younger generations.
However, respondents — particularly women — also recognized the obstacles that women often face, including lack of support in STEM careers and opportunities while still in school.
The LLS also acknowledges these challenges and promotes opportunities for young women to gain interest in STEM sciences earlier in the classroom. Through LLS’ Student Series fundraising campaign, more than 14.5 million students in approximately 27,000 schools across the country can gain access to a curriculum of LLS-funded scientific discoveries to learn key common core skills.
In addition to LLS grants, the organization also recognizes the importance of reaching all members of the community, including patients, caregivers, and healthcare professionals, it said.
Leading these efforts is Elisa Weiss, PhD, LLS senior vice president of patient access and outcomes, particularly in ensuring that critical information reaches everyone who may need it. LLS provides free resources on several topics through their website, including disease information, services, and education.
Closing the circle is yet another woman: Bernadette O’Donoghue, vice president of public policy, who leads LLS’ Office of Public Policy in Washington, D.C. O’Donoghue works with national and state legislators to create new laws and policies that eliminate barriers to new therapies.
“Never think you cannot do it because you are a woman. Don’t hold yourself back. You can achieve anything you want to do. Dream Big,” said Irene Ghobrial, MD, a scientist who has received numerous LLS grants during her career. Ghobrial is looking for ways to prevent early-stage blood cancers from progressing to more serious cancers, such as myeloma and leukemia.
This story is published close to March 8, celebrated worldwide as International Women’s Day. The occasion highlights the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women worldwide. The day also marks a call to action for accelerating gender parity. The day has the support of millions in Europe, the United States, and around the world who campaign for women’s equality.