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Women in science: making inroads in academia and industry


Date: April 7, 2021
Prof. Idit Shachar

Prof. Idit Shachar

From its launch in 2007, the Israel National Postdoctoral Award Program for Advancing Women in Science at the Weizmann Institute set out to increase the number of female scientists in academia in Israel.

And it has indeed been highly successful, with about 65 percent of its former participants—women scientists who have done postdoc fellowships abroad—going on to attain faculty-track positions in Israeli academia. But there’s another unintended success story among the remaining 35 percent: the program alumni who have gone on to careers in Israeli high tech and biotech.

Many of these women are attaining leadership roles in their fields, evincing the impact of the program on industry in Israel.
To highlight this success, the Advancing Women in Science Program launched an online lecture series this year featuring outstanding female researchers who have gone on to become prominent players in industry. In December, Dr. Michal Rosen-Zvi, Director of Healthcare Informatics at IBM Research in Haifa and a visiting professor at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, discussed the transformation of healthcare technologies through artificial intelligence, specifically as relates to breast cancer research.

January’s speaker was Dr. Moran Grossman, who completed both her MSc and PhD at the Weizmann Institute. She also worked as a senior scientist at MabTrix, a startup company whose research originated in the lab of Prof. Irit Sagi, from the Institute’s Department of Biological Regulation. Dr. Grossman now works as a non-clinical safety project leader at Teva Pharmaceuticals, and delivered a lecture on the use of animals in drug development.
Dr. Ervin Tal-Gutelmacher, who was among the inaugural cadre of the Women Science postdoc program, spoke in March on the use of hydrogen and fuel cells for transitioning to clean energy. She is CEO of HydroLite, owned by Elbit Systems, which focuses on the development of high efficiency power-to-hydrogen and hydrogen-to-power devices.

Welcoming new leadership 
In January, Prof. Lia Addadi stepped down from her role as President’s Advisor for Advancing Women in Science, where she oversaw the prestigious postdoc program, after several years at the helm. She was replaced by Prof. Idit Shachar, a member of the Department of Immunology. Her newly titled role is Head of the Office for the Advancement of Women in Science and Gender Equality. 
“Despite the numerous challenges we faced over the past few years, the program continues to make important strides in advancing the careers of women scientists. I am sure that this will continue and grow further when Idit Shachar takes my place,” said Prof. Addadi.
“I accepted this appointment since I believe that the time is ripe for the Weizmann Institute—along with our desire to be excellent in science—to become a light house for social issues faced in academia in Israel, and gender equality is one of them,” Prof. Shachar added.

International Women’s Day
Weizmann’s Office for the Advancement of Women in Science and Gender Equality took part in a nationwide event on International Women’s Day on March 8, which brought together women leaders from across all Israeli universities. The event focused on the status of women in Israeli academia, including challenges and methods to advance their standing, among a range of other topics pertinent to women in academia. The presenters from Weizmann included Prof. Nirit Dudovich, Prof. Michal Sharon, and Dr. Neta Regev-Rudzki.