UNC Health Care

5 Tips for Young Women Building Careers as Medical Researchers

1. Network!
Have a business card, go out of your comfort zone, talk to people you don’t know, make new connections, and exchange contact information. Have memberships in the women in science groups in your area (Look for local chapters of national groups including: GWIS, AMWA, and WIB. Also, look for groups specific to your school. At UNC, we additionally have: WInS, WISE, and AMPWIS).

2. Apply for any grant / opportunity you are interested in, even if you do not meet all of the requirements.
Research has shown that men apply for opportunities when they meet on average 60% of the requirements, and women tend to wait to apply for opportunities until they think they meet 100% of the requirements [1]. If you’re successful with an application, you will learn things as you go, so have confidence in your abilities to master new skills and adapt. The more opportunities you apply for, the more you will receive. If you don’t apply, the worst thing that will happen is you don’t get it. However, you will more likely receive a lot more accolades or opportunities than you anticipate.

3. Always be prepared to give a talk.
Have a two-minute speech prepared on your research/work in several variations for any time you are asked about what you study. To be optimally prepared, have one version suited for the lay public, one for collaborators, and one for VIPs (e.g., department chairs, division chiefs, or deans). Additionally, seek out opportunities to give more formal talks on your research whether at department retreats, conferences, or universities you contact while in town for another reason. Giving a talk will get your name, face, and work out there better than presenting a poster and will also help in practicing the important skill of communicating your scientific work.

4. Own your accomplishments, and support your peers.
Men have no problem boasting or overselling their accomplishments, while women do not talk about themselves or their achievements as much [2]. Own your accomplishments, be proud of them. In addition, to have your accomplishments recognized without feeling like you’re bragging, form a group of colleagues that will publicize your accomplishments for you and vice versa. When one of you succeeds/gets an award/publishes a paper/gets a grant/finishes a project, your colleagues can let the world know for you.

5. Get educated on the issues, and get involved at the local and national level!
The gender disparities in research and medicine (and society as a whole) will not change unless we all do our part to speak up and change them.

Read the full story about the UNC Advocates for MD-PhD Women in Science.

[1] In this study, internal research by Hewlett-Packard found that women only apply for jobs for which they feel they are a 100% match; men do so even when they meet no more than 60% of the requirements. We could not locate the original article, but this study is cited in Lean In and, more recently, The Confidence Gap article that appeared in the 14April2014 issue of The Atlantic (http://www.theatlantic.com/features/archive/2014/04/the-confidence-gap/359815/).

[2] Men overestimating and women underestimating their abilities: For more information, see the original article: Ehrlinger, J., Dunning, D. How chronic self-views influence (and potentially mislead) estimates of performance. J. Pers Soc Psychol. 2003 Jan; 84(1):5-17.