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News Highlights

Tuesday, 08 Mar, 2022

Empowering “women in science” to break the bias this International Women’s Day

Initiatives by the SingHealth Duke-NUS Women in Science network support women scientists to excel and progress in their careers


‘Break the Bias to Empower Yourself and Others to Thrive at Work’ leadership seminar by Karolina Gwinner on 9 March 2022 aims to do exactly that – to empower attendees to break through the diverse barriers that they face in the workplace.  And this is just one of a series of events lined up by the SingHealth Duke-NUS Women in Science (WinS) network to celebrate International Women’s Day.

WinS network, which connects women in science and academic medicine in the AMC community, has put on a mix of events that not only encourage participants but also offer a bit of fun. Who said being a scientist means only conducing empirical research and staring at test tubes all day long!

“As our AMC strives to innovate in research, education, and clinical care, we need to work towards ensuring gender, ethnic and cultural diversity, equity and inclusion of all of our staff, students, and trainees to drive sustainable progress. This is especially important to address for our women scientists that are under-represented and continuously lost from science, from the junior faculty level out to mid- and late career points,” said Assistant Professor Ann-Marie Chacko who leads WinS and the WinS Research Scientists Initiative (WinS-RSI), which she launched in March 2017 to address the specific challenges faced by ‘early career’ female research scientists.

Gender disparities rooted in bias continue to hold women career scientists back, according to the latest UNESCO data from 2021. That study found that while women represent a third of all researchers, they only account for 12 per cent of national science academy members, continue to receive smaller research grants compared with their male colleagues and their work remains underrepresented in high-profile journals.

The second event anchoring the week is a panel discussion on the topic ‘Diversity, Innovation and Entrepreneurship in Academia’ on 11 March 2022. Hosted together with the Singapore Women in Science (SgWIS), panellists will discuss the challenges and the opportunities facing academia in engaging women and underrepresented groups in breaking into the entrepreneurship space to advance innovations.

Throughout the week, WinS is also sponsoring at-home movie viewing gatherings, featuring the movie ‘Picture a Scientist’ that will enable the whole community to collectively confront the common held stereotypes of what a scientist looks like, and what stereotypes prevail, when that scientist is a woman.

This year’s events are built on WinS’ strong track record of putting on diverse initiatives to support women scientists and clinician-scientists across the AMC. This includes a partnership with non-profit organisation KeyNote Women, which is committed to bring diversity to speaking stages across the world. Together with WinS, KeyNote Women introduced a series of high profile female speakers to inspire their most recent 2021 WinS Leadership Programme cohort.  

Career advancement programme to cultivate future leaders

Asst Prof Ann-Marie Chacko
Ann-Marie Chacko, PhD
Assistant Professor, Cancer & Stem Cell Biology Programme
Lead, SingHealth Duke-NUS WinS Network

Following the success of the WinS Leadership Programme, which is aimed at motivating early to mid career faculty and clinician scientists, the WinS-Career Advancement Programme (CAP) was launched under WinS-RSI with the mission to advance and develop the careers of female research scientists across the AMC at all professional and training levels.

“The WinS-CAP is designed to address some of the unique challenges faced by early career woman scientists. With in-depth training workshops and faculty-peer mentor sessions, participants will emerge with greater self-awareness and other tangible skills needed to deftly navigate their career advancement with stronger purpose and confidence,” said Asst Prof Chacko.

After the successful graduation of the inaugural cohort, which comprised twenty ‘early career’ female scientists across the AMC in October 2020, WinS-RSI organised the second run of WinS-CAP in collaboration with Roffey Park Institute. In July 2021, the programme accepted twenty talented early career PhD women scientists across Duke-NUS and SingHealth.

Asst Prof Ann-Marie Chacko

Ann-Marie Chacko

Assistant Professor
Cancer & Stem Cell Biology
Programme Lead - WinS

Assoc Prof Caroline Lee

Caroline Lee

Associate Professor (joint)
Cancer & Stem Cell Biology

Associate Professor
Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine

Vice Dean (Outreach/Admissions)
NUS Graduate School

Vandana Ramachandran

Vandana Ramachandran

Research & Academic Affairs

Mei-Wang Casey

Associate Professor
Cancer & Stem Cell Biology

WinS-CAP 2021 faculty mentors

Eugenia Ong

Eugenia Ong

Principal Research Scientist
Viral Research and Experimental Research Medicine Centre @ SingHealth Duke-NUS

Soye Shin

Soye Shin

Research Fellow
Health Services and Systems

Eugenia Ong, a Principal Research Scientist with the Viral Research and Experimental Medicine Centre @ SingHealth Duke-NUS, who was part of the inaugural cohort said, “This programme has allowed me to expand my professional network and gain valuable skill sets that bring me closer to my goal of building a career in translational science to improve human health and wellbeing.”

“I find this programme very helpful to build a supportive network with women researchers in different fields. I have obtained practical knowledge to be applied to dynamic environments and good attitude towards myself and colleagues that eventually enable me to work efficiently and professionally. I strongly encourage women scientists, especially junior researchers, to apply for this programme. You won’t regret it,” said Soye Shin, a WinS-CAP 2021 participant and Research Fellow with the Health Services and System Research Programme.

The WinS-CAP Class of 2022 is due to celebrate their graduation as soon as COVID-19 restrictions permit.

Participants from the inaugural cohort of WinS-CAP during a mentoring session

Participants from the inaugural cohort of WinS-CAP during a mentoring session


WinS-CAP 2020 graduation