Canada’s Women in Regenerative Medicine initiative launched in Ottawa

It’s been well documented that women occupy fewer leadership roles and get less recognition than their male counterparts across nearly all professional sectors, including the sciences. It’s been suggested that one way to bridge this gap is to facilitate greater networking and opportunities for mentorship. In the spirit of this aim, on November 12, the Stem Cell Network with support from the Ontario Institute for Regenerative Medicine, BCRegMed and ThéCell held a Women in Regenerative Medicine breakfast to serve as a stepping stone for future networking, mentoring opportunities and initiatives to celebrate and support women in regenerative medicine.

Approximately 75 people were in attendance, the majority of which were trainees, with 18 invited leaders seated at round tables across the room. SCN’s Executive Director & COO, Cate Murray, kicked off the inaugural event and introduced keynote speaker, Leanna Caron.

Caron is a global business executive in the regenerative medicine sector and is also the President of Skate Canada. During her presentation, she outlined her career path experience and climb to success while noting the different challenges she’s had to overcome as a woman in business. Caron rose to the top through a combination of determination and a willingness to take risks that challenged her own belief of what she thought she was capable of. For her, success “can be achieved by two things: Being passionate about what you do and having the right drivers for wanting success.”

Caron’s personal experiences and advice served as the backdrop for the remaining time, in which the early career trainees took the opportunity to learn and engage with the leaders at their tables. During the discussion period attendees shared the opportunities they’ve had as women, such as being exposed to great female role models in the field and the challenges they have faced, for example, not being taken seriously, micro-managed and offered fewer opportunities than men. To conclude the dialogue, attendees discussed the resources that could help to assist woman in regenerative medicine, such as, access to mentorship, professional development and more open conversation.

The networking breakfast received some great feedback. As an example, Marissa Lithopoulos, a trainee supported by SCN and OIRM in the Bernard Thébaud lab at the Ottawa Hospital, commented, “This was a fantastic new addition to this year’s Till and McCulloch Meetings! My favourite part was learning about the experiences of women in the field; the challenges they have faced, as well as how they overcame those challenges, to lead successful careers. This is just the beginning of an important conversation.”

The discussions and feedback will be used to develop a long-term program aimed at ensuring that the culture within Canada’s regenerative medicine community is welcoming and inclusive.