As representatives of the complement community, it is our honor to award the first ‘Pioneering Women in Complement Research Award’ to Professors Patricia Creveling Giclas, Irma Gigli, and the late Jarmila Janatova.
This award was initiated to honor retired female members of the complement community for their major and long-lasting scientific impact on our research field – and to showcase key female complementologists as role models for the younger female scientists among us.
Our understanding of the biological pathways that underly human health and diseases is shaped by the countless scientists that constantly pushed and push the boundaries of our knowledge. For many decades, scientific research was dominated at the bench and in central academic leadership positions by male investigators. Women only broke slowly into these ranks and many of them had to work ‘double-hard’ to not only garner scientific success but to simultaneously raise children. Thus, ‘early’ independent female scientists, such as the awardees that we honor here, are true trailblazers and paved the way for the next generation of female scientists.
Whilst the names of famous women in history books that contributed vitally and cross-disciplinary to science is constantly increasing and the prospects of women in science have never been better than they are now, significant gender-based disparities remain, including disparities in recognition, salary, and funding (1). Furthermore, the COVID-19 pandemic has shown us, that female scientists, particularly those at earlier career stages, remain unproportionally more vulnerable to ‘adverse events’: they most often bear the greater proportion of childcare and household responsibilities, which impacts negatively on their ability to do or direct lab work and to publish. Indeed, the numbers of biomedical publications with female first authors dropped by 19% and that of female senior authors by 5% this year (2).
Thus, in honor and the spirit of the Pioneering Women in Complement Research, this is a prime time for the complement community to come together and not only celebrate our awardees but to also protect particularly our next generation of female scientists – and actions of each single lab head or institute director can support this cause.
In the following are contributions from John P. Atkinson and Ashley Frazer-Abel that highlight the careers and contributions of Prof. Irma Gigli and Patsy Giclas, respectively. Sadly, Prof. Jarmila Janatova passed away on July 13th of this year. David Isenman and Andrea Tenner have composed a memorial to honor her life.
Claudia Kemper and Andrea Tenner
Carr, P. L. et al. Gender differences in academic medicine: retention, rank, and leadership comparisons from the National Faculty Survey. , 1694–1699 (2018)
Andersen, J.P. et al. COVID-19 Medical Papers Have Fewer Women First Authors Than Expected. eLife Vol. 9, Article No. e58807 (2020)