Women in science Q&A – Dame Anna F Dominiczak
Dame Anna F Dominiczak, Regius Professor of Medicine, University of Glasgow - Image credit: Dame Anna F Dominiczak
Dame Anna F Dominiczak is director of Glasgow University’s Cardiovascular Research Centre
What barriers did you face going into science growing up, and how did you overcome them?
I graduated from medical school in Gdansk, Poland, and then moved to the UK to continue my studies and training. I faced the dual challenge of being both a woman and an immigrant in, what was then, a very male-dominated and traditional environment. I was inspired by strong role models – both of my parents were doctors, kidney specialists who worked to prevent kidney failure. I was also driven by an interest in people and was highly motivated to help people – everything I do today is still motivated by patient benefit. I am also fortunate to have a good work ethic, a strong drive and determination to succeed and do not take no for an answer.
The Scottish Government has recognised women in science as an untapped resource, but what barriers remain?
I believe significant progress has been made but there is still work to be done. I think there is a need to better address gender bias within society as a whole. This work starts in the classroom to encourage more talented young women to envisage a career in, and study, STEM subjects. This may or may not involve changes to the curriculum and may simply include engagement with inspirational role models – women successful in science at different stages of their careers.
Work also needs to be done to support career progression and to tackle the gender pay gap as they progress. Mentoring plays a valuable role for women in science throughout their careers. This takes many shapes and forms and may involve peer mentoring or mentoring of those at earlier stages in their careers by those more experienced. It can be formal or informal in nature. Appropriate support for career breaks, on return to work and with childcare is also important.
Do you see yourself as a role model or pioneer, and what advice would you give a young woman entering science today?
As the first woman to be Regius Chair of Medicine at the University of Glasgow – an ancient university founded in 1451 and Scottish University of the Year 2018 in The Times and The Sunday Times Good University Guide – I hope I help to encourage young women not only to enter science but to see the opportunity for a long-term career and to make a difference.
I do consider myself a pioneer in terms of innovation. I established the University of Glasgow’s College of Medical, Veterinary and Life Sciences’ innovative structure, where teaching in three schools is supported by research in seven institutes.
What advice would I give a young woman entering science today? Be bold, believe in yourself and do not be afraid to reach for the stars; the sky really is the limit!
Can you think of a moment in your career where you have felt undermined or patronised because you are a woman?
I think that in science and medicine, both men and women experience competition and this might lead to feeling either undermined or patronised. I believe that it is not limited to women. However, the important thing is how you respond in such a situation; having the resilience to rise above any such attempts and resist any such feelings. I believe every individual (both men and women) has it in their power to do so.