From the director: Why women scientists matter

Hutch Magazine

Rock star women scientists, and why they matter

Dr. Gary Gilliland

Dr. Gary Gilliland

Photo by Robert Hood / Fred Hutch

FRED HUTCH IS DOING AMAZING SCIENCE. Our translational work has been saving lives for 40 years, and the work we are doing right now is going to save many more. But there is one area in particular we know we can improve in.

Everywhere in the news today is the subject of STEM education — science, technology, engineering and math. The conversation is about how we aren’t preparing our young people to take on these challenging fields. We aren’t ensuring that the next generations of potential gamechangers are sufficiently inspired to take on the hard work of using science to make the world a
better place.

And there is another, defining piece of this zeitgeist, which speaks to the core of this edition of Hutch magazine: women in science. In particular, there’s a disparity of women versus men in positions of authority in science. This is a hugely important issue. If you begin with the premise, as I do, that women and men are equally capable of doing lifesaving, world-changing science and should be equally represented, but then see that only 38 percent of faculty across the U.S., and even at Fred Hutch, are women — well, that says to me we are missing 12 percent of the most talented humans who should be working with us to end cancer and related diseases.

This is a surmountable problem, but there is much to be done. Just look at the statistics on the adjoining page. I have committed to ensuring that equity, real equity, happens during my tenure here.

We need to step up our recruiting and hiring of female faculty members. We need to make sure they are represented in leadership positions. And we need to ensure that families of every shape can co-exist with innovative work. This is a priority for us and one of the reasons we offer — and subsidize — our unique onsite day care, Hutch Kids. We continue to look at how we make sure the very best people are here to help us answer the most difficult questions of our time.

Since I started at Fred Hutch, just more than one year ago, I have been blown away by the incredible work being done by all of our scientists. Our rock star women scientists run the gamut: From the up-and-comers, to our icons — who have already changed medical history — we have an impressive legacy of female leadership and success.

I hope you, too, are inspired by the stories of our emerging, iconic — and nascent — female scientists, whom you will meet in this issue. Onward.

Cures start here,

Dr. Gary Gilliland

Dr. Gary Gilliland
President and Director