The women of BioVox

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STEM has had a long reputation of being a masculine environment, though recent efforts have made this field much more accessible to all genders. Our gender can influence both the external factors and internal methods affecting how we work.

The contributors to BioVox have a unique perspective, often having been both scientists and communicators. With a bird’s eye view on the life sciences sector, what do the female contributors to BioVox — Liesbeth Demuyser, Emma Buchet, Carole Bruynoghe, Mara Long, and Amy LeBlanc — have to say about gender in science communication and life sciences?


As a female science communicator who has experience with the life sciences sector, what unique perspectives do you bring to the field?

Liesbeth Demuyser: As a female science communicator, but also as a lecturer, I have the feeling that I can relate to my audience in a more profound way. My empathy, although it can sometimes act as an obstacle, allows me to naturally connect with my audience and sense their needs without having to ask many questions. It is rather easy to build a relationship with other people and adapt my communication in such a way that it has most impact.

Amy LeBlanc: I think being a woman influences my science communication for the better, as I believe it makes me more open to multiple perspectives. Women navigate a world where their lived reality is usually not considered the default – we therefore become adept at considering not only our own experience, but also that of others. This is the same for people with any type of divergence from the societal ‘standard’. I happen to embody a few of them (being an international, queer, neurodivergent woman), which I believe has increased my tendency to actively seek out and share different viewpoints in my science communication. I think this should be the aim for everyone in science communication, irrespective of gender or background. I firmly feel that celebrating diversity and improving representation in research makes for stronger science and a better society for all.

I firmly feel that celebrating diversity and improving representation in research makes for stronger science and a better society for all.


How do you approach communicating complex scientific concepts to diverse audiences, and do you find that your gender influences this approach?

Emma Buchet: I think my gender influences me to think of a story at a personal level. When a company takes a great leap in technology, what does this mean for people who are not directly involved? The cliché in science communication is that you should be able to explain something to your grandmother, but why is your grandmother interested in your story in the first place? I like to explore the nuances and try to get all the angles so that I can create a holistic picture that even the scientists didn’t think of. Nothing is better in my job than seeing their passion flicker in their eyes. Yes, your innovation is cool and yes, a grandmother should think so too!


How can science communication platforms better support and amplify the voices of women in the life sciences industry?

Mara Long: For me, it is important to bring a light to how women might be differently affected by new technology, treatments, and products, so platforms should shed a light and encourage the life sciences industry to create that awareness. Many existing products have been designed with men in mind, or at least with men as the ‘standard’. Thankfully things are starting to change, but for a long time women were not even included in clinical studies, so many pharmaceutical products, for example, have side effects in women that were never explored in the development phase. It is so important for women to be involved in the development and in discussions around new technologies and products to make sure that we are represented.

Liesbeth Demuyser: First, we need to be aware that the bias still exists, and we need to talk about it. Although there have been major advances in closing the gender gap, we cannot simply erase history. We still see that the majority of people in C-level positions or professors are men. It will take more time and effort to fix the wrongs from the past. In order to do that, we need to inspire girls and young women to enter the field of life sciences and be ambitious in their goals. We can do that by putting female leaders/pioneers in the spotlight, which is what we aim for at BioVox. On the other side, the workplace environment needs to become more women-friendly. Women shouldn’t feel that they must choose between a family and an ambitious career. It should be possible to have both.

Women shouldn’t feel that they must choose between a family and an ambitious career. It should be possible to have both.

Carole Bruynoghe: As Liesbeth already mentioned, it is key that we acknowledge that there still is a bias, especially in high-level positions in companies. Communication platforms should therefore not only highlight the contributions of women in the life sciences. Ensuring a diverse representation of women from different backgrounds, ethnicities, and career stages can provide a more comprehensive picture of the women in the industry and inspire a broader range of individuals. Opportunities that are dedicated to diversity and bridging the gap can help build supportive professional relationships, access resources, and advance careers.


Have you faced any gender-related obstacles or biases in science (communication)?

Emma Buchet: Honestly, I’ve been lucky not to face too many. Some biases that I’ve encountered are pretty subtle. Often when I interview male scientists, they compliment me on how much I understand. I don’t get that as much with female scientists. I am, of course, always happy to receive praise but only without the negative implication that I shouldn’t understand something. I have gotten my hands dirty scientifically; my final research project was on parasites!

Liesbeth Demuyser: When you are a young scientist and nearly all high-level profiles, such as the professors teaching your classes, are male, you assume that this is the way it works. Some women feel they need to work extra hard to reach the same goals as your male colleagues do. However, there has been great progress in this regard. During my research as a PhD student and later post-doctoral researcher, I saw more and more women taking up higher positions in the organization. This works as a major motivator. Now, when I witness female friends of my age applying for and securing higher faculty positions, I think: “Way to go, girl!”


At BioVox we are determined to help close the gender gap in life sciences by consciously focusing on representation of all different gender identities.

 Note: In this article we use the word ‘woman’ and ‘female’ to denote anyone who identifies as such.