Ending the Silent Brain Drain: Professor Jenny Martin on Supporting Women in Science

Professor Jenny Martin is an NHMRC Research Fellow at the Institute for Molecular Bioscience at the University of Queensland, and served on the SAGE Steering Committee from 2014 to Dec 2015. She has stepped down from this role as she prepares to begin her role as Director of the Eskitis Drug Discovery Institute at Griffith University in Brisbane in March 2016

SAGE extends our heartfelt thanks to Jenny for her contribution to the SAGE Steering Committee. Jenny is a true champion of gender equity.

Jenny was instrumental to the initial development of the SAGE Pilot, having served on the SAGE 2014 Forum, a platform that recommended the trial of the Athena SWAN Charter in Australia.

Jenny’s passion and commitment to the campaign for gender equity in STEMM disciplines is renowned in the Australian sector. Reflecting on the launch of the SAGE Pilot, Jenny writes:

From the kernel of an idea a couple of years ago, a group of incredibly inspiring people have now changed the landscape of science in Australia. I cannot tell you how proud I am to count myself among their number.

In the video above, Jenny speaks about the goals of the SAGE program as a way of measuring the progression of women through their science careers and identifying the barriers that lead to a lack of advancement.

Brain drain

Jenny points out that gender discrimination also often affects men, particularly in their capacity to take parental leave.  She believes the take up of flexible practices should be the same for men and women, but similarly, that women have just as much opportunity to progress to senior levels as men do currently.

Jenny recognises that different disciplines have different issues.  Some disciplines like physics and maths have an issue of getting young women into undergraduate degrees which is not the case for medicine and life sciences.  While around 60% of undergraduates in the medical and life sciences are women, they are not supported through to senior levels.

The curves that show the attrition of women relative to men in the progression from undergraduate to professor has been called “ the silent brain drain” because we’re losing half of our smart people
The silent brain drain: we’re losing half of our smart people. – Professor Jenny Martin

Jenny reflects on her experiences through her own career progression, particularly as she started to notice she was often the only woman in a meeting.  Since being awarded the prestigious ARC Australian Laureate Fellowship, Jenny feels she has a platform to talk about the issues and barriers that have impacted on her career.

How SAGE is Unique

Jenny is confident that SAGE can help institutes to identify why women are leaving science, and then develop an action plan to address those issues.  Jenny believes that SAGE is distinctive because it’s evidence based and because it requires participation from the whole institution, from the top down.

SAGE is unique and different because it’s not a box ticking exercise.

Learn More

Learn more about Professor Martin’s research and gender equity advocacy on  on her website