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March 2017 GWIS Lead

Wednesday, March 22, 2017   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Allison Shultz
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March 2017
GWIS LEAD is a GWIS periodical profiling women leaders in science.  Subscribe
Sadiye Rieder: Immunologist Leading to Close the Gender Gap
With two big suitcases and lots of tears, 16-year-old Sadiye Rieder left Cyprus by herself and started a new life chapter in the United States. Years passed and her dream of becoming a scientist came true. Now Dr. Sadiye Rieder has received her PhD from the University of South Carolina-Columbia, and completed a post-doctoral fellowship at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID); she is currently a research scientist at a biotechnology company located in Maryland.

Dr. Rieder's research investigates how targeting receptors on T cells can modulate their functions and involvement in autoimmune diseases.The aim of her studies is to understand the intricate biology of T cell surface receptors, and develop antibodies (drug candidates) that specifically target these receptors during disease. She compares the expression of receptors and measures immune response profiles of cells derived from patients with autoimmune diseases and from those of healthy subjects. Additionally, she studies the molecular mechanisms that are downstream of these receptors; inspecting the transcriptome of T cells as a population, and looking at gene expression at the single cell level. She then works with the protein engineering department at the company to come up with candidate molecules for treatment of autoimmune diseases.   

As a female scientist, she is always proud and motivated.

I believe that as a female scientist, I can bring about change from within and advocate for the right things such as more women in leadership positions and income equality.

Dr. Rieder understands the obstacles faced by female scientists, especially as someone with experience in academia, government research, and scientific industry. She can offer more comprehensive observations on gender issues among researchers.

One main challenge is the distinction between perception and reality. I am referring to the assumption that a female scientist will not be interested in an exciting yet demanding opportunity because of the care-giving responsibilities she has (i.e. a new baby, or a sick parent). For example, a manager may assume that a new mom will not be interested in an opportunity, and will end up not even asking her about it. In this case, the manager may even think that they are being considerate and actually protecting your time. In dealing with situations like this, I strongly encourage women scientists to speak up about their desires to be involved in different opportunities, and to be vocal about their career goals.
 
Most of us are familiar with the concept of mentoring, and may be in a mentor-mentee relationship. Dr. Rieder suggests that more women in science need sponsors in addition to mentors. An explanation of the difference can be found in two articles from the New York Times and Forbes. Professional sponsors can advocate for women in situations like the one she describes above; the idea of which was further emphasized by Kim Ranko from Ernst & Young, in the Annual Women’s summit hosted by AstraZeneca last year.

Another obstacle mentioned by Dr.Rieder relates to competency and respect:

In my experience, in most instances, a woman scientist will have to work very hard to demonstrate competency, while a male counterpart may be assumed competent until proven otherwise. This unconscious bias in differential amounts of respect in a professional setting can be quite discouraging. Gender bias takes many different forms within the workplace, affects all of us, and we should be working as a scientific community—men and women—to overcome its deleterious effects. I found that demonstration of self-confidence is vital in dealing with this. The key is to trust in your ability to do the best science and in your professional knowledge as you move forward. Lots of organizations are also having training on this subject, making people aware of their biases and providing ways to overcome them. I believe this organizational effort is particularly important in addressing the problem.

The third important obstacle cited by Dr. Rieder, is related to leadership styles:

It is challenging not to mold into the traditional style of problem solving and leadership as a woman scientist. Because after all, that is the norm, and going outside of that may seem risky. But I encourage women scientists to approach problems and be leaders in their own way. I believe that great success and caring/nurturing are not mutually exclusive.

As a scientist, Dr. Rieder uses data and evidence to look at the gender issue. Noticing that conversations with several scientists always lead to the same topic - the gender pay gap - Dr. Rieder had given this phenomenon a lot of thought:

When you look at the data, it does seem like the median income for women is less than the median income for men for the same type of jobs. So why is that? Everyone agrees that equal work demands equal pay, no matter your gender or background, but the issue gets tricky when one starts to discuss about what equal work is. It gets even more complicated when you start considering more variables such as amount and quality of past experience, etc. An interesting episode of the podcast Freakonomics named The True Story of the Gender Pay Gap, discusses this exact issue in detail, and some of the conclusions are quite interesting. In the end, the most important question is why is it the case? If we know why, then maybe we can figure out how to fix it.

One reason may be that some key behavioral patterns, such as self-doubt, lack of confidence, and being a perfectionist, may result in fewer women in leadership positions, which contributes to the pay gap.

 
GWIS Lead: Dr. Sadiye Rieder
Watch this video to see how Sadiye Rieder's research
investigates drugs to treat autoimmune diseases

The other reason may be that women approach work/life intersection differently. Although the society’s expectation that women are the primary care givers has changed a lot in the recent years, a greater burden still stands on the shoulders of women. I would like to recommend an article,by Sarah Schoppe-Sullivan, Dads Are More Involved in Parenting, Yes, but Moms Still Put In More Work, which talks about how even in households where men and women share a lot of care-giving responsibilities, women still end up doing more. So, women end up needing more flexibility with their work hours, take more time off in order to take care of kids or sick parents, and miss out on social networking opportunities that all result in less visibility in the work place. Less visibility combined with less time to focus on productive outcomes hold women back, resulting in reduced income. These issues are exacerbated (at least in my mind) for female scientists, because science is a slow process that requires many long hours and days and there are only so many hours in a day. This issue is a harder one to fix, because it requires a shift in the behaviors of a whole society. However, we are moving in the right direction: more and more, some companies are fine with flexible work hours, or they offer paid care programs for dependents in order to help out working parents.

Not only is she a successful scientist, Dr.Rieder is also the mother of a three-year-old daughter. Managing motherhood and a research career at the same time gives her a different perspective with which to look at the gender equality topic.

Being a working parent is hard, VERY HARD! One of the burning questions in the past couple years (after we had her) for me has been: can I be exceptional at more than one thing? Can I be an excellent research scientist and the best mother at the same time? I do not think I am the first one to ask these questions, but it is a path that one has to walk on. I figured out that I just needed to do things a bit differently and also have a different outlook on life, but that I could be exceptional at both things! Absolutely! In regards to research/science: I have learned that I need to prioritize and work efficiently in getting through my to-do list. I have learned to delegate, and recruit other’s involvement in my projects and ideas. I have learned to say “no”. In regards to life/being a mom: I have learned that sometimes my house is not the cleanest, and that is ok. I have learned that family time is precious, and that the time goes by too fast to miss all the wonderful things. I have learned to slow down and to soak in all the good things regardless of how piled high my plate is. I do want to emphasize the importance of the right partner at this point, because without a partner sharing the burden of being a parent, this would be folds harder.

There still exists a lot of societal pressure for women to have kids or for women who already have kids to have more than one (What? You are not going to give a sibling to your child?!). I think we need to get over this push for having children, and make sure to support the women who choose not to have any kids as well. It is also important to note that those women still need to think about work/life intersection, as they may have other important things that they need to do to make their lives complete. So whatever it is, it is important to make room for things in life (other than work) that make us happy.
The most important thing in regards to overcoming gender inequity is to keep talking about the important issues and including men in this conversation as well. We need everyone’s brilliant insights in overcoming this problem. We also need organizations such as GWIS to advocate for the right things as a community, and when you have that many strong women pushing to move the needle in the right direction, change is inevitable. Just keep pushing.

 
Dr. Rieder is just one of the advocates who are very passionate about empowering women in science. Dr. Rieder is currently serving as the Recording and Corresponding Secretary for the National GWIS executive board though her journey with the organization started back in 2011.

Shortly after I moved to DC for my postdoc, one day my husband and I were out on a walk with our maltipoo in Silver Spring, Maryland. We ended up sitting on a bench to rest, and met Carol Goter-Robinson, who was DC Chapter’s vice president at the time. Carol invited me to the next chapter gathering, and from that first meeting, GWIS felt very welcoming. I was surrounded by passionate and successful women, most of whom paved the way for women in science. The year after I joined, I became then Omicron’s, now National Capital Chapter’s, vice president, then its president the consecutive year. It felt so good to be surrounded by such fascinating women who were caring and empowering at the same time. Now my role as the Corresponding and Recording secretary is new, and I am learning a lot about how GWIS works at the national level. It is an honor to be working with these fascinating women, and I am thankful for the opportunity. Everyone, and I mean everyone, brings a valuable point of view, and lots of brilliance to the table, and the dedication to empower, lead, and connect is real. GWIS is unique, because all of the connections are formed at the personal level, and it provides all the benefits of a professional organization but it feels like family.

Besides GWIS, Dr. Rieder also dedicates as much time as she can to helping to promote women in science in different fields. In 2015, she co-created the event “Evolution of Success: Lessons from Women Leading Science.” Thanks to the commitment and tenacity of its organizers, the event garnered record attendance and participation. The Healthcare Businesswomen's Association Mid-Atlantic board later announced Dr. Rieder and Rachel Gottschalk as their MAVENs (Mid-Atlantic Volunteer Engagement Nonpareil) in recognition of their outstanding efforts, dedication and impact.

If you wish to learn more about Dr. Sadiye Rieder and join her in a discussion of gender inequality, please join our webinar on Tuesday, March 21st at 8 pm EST.
Contributed by Shu Li. Video by Kayleen Schreiber and Maria Adonay.
GWIS members can join a free, small group mentoring session with Dr. Rieder tomorrow, March 21st at 8 pm EST/ 7pm CST/ 5pm PST. You will receive an email early tomorrow with instructions for the webinar. The webinar will be accessible via Google hangouts; you will need to have a gmail account to participate.
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Founded in 1921, Graduate Women in Science is an inter-disciplinary society of scientists who collectively seek to advance the participation and recognition of women in science and to foster research through grants, awards and fellowships. We comprise over 20 active chapters of more than 800 women who are "United in Friendship through Science" to support and inspire member professional goals and mutual appreciation of science. Learn more at www.gwis.org.

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