Towards gender equality in immunology

Towards gender equality for immunology research scientists: Francesca Di Rosa , Frontiers for Immunology, SIICA, RICERCATA initiative

The RICERCATA initiative helps women pursue their scientific career after maternity leave – as well as men after paternity leave. Image: Shutterstock

Dr. Francesca Di Rosa shares her vision of equal opportunities for women — and men — working in the field of immunology

— By Nikolaos Chatziandreou, PhD

Gender imbalance in the professional arena is a global issue. Dr. Francesca Di Rosa, an Associate Editor for Frontiers in Immunology and member of the Executive Committee of the Italian Society of Immunology, Clinical Immunology and Allergology (SIICA), identified a specific problem faced by women in Immunology — and formulated a way to address it.

The RICERCATA initiative helps women pursue their scientific career after maternity leave through a re-entry fellowship program.

“The aim of the RICERCATA initiative is not only to provide fellowships to individuals, but also to increase awareness within Italy about the difficulties women immunologists face, going back to research after a career break for maternity,” she explains. “RICERCATA is promoted by SIICA for its members. Applicants will be selected on the basis of the submitted project and their CV.”

In her quest to support equal opportunities, she adds that “the fellowship is also for men who re-enter a scientific career after paternity leave.”

Fighting against social prejudices

Dr Di Rosa advises women “to be self-confident and think out of the box” and not to “internalize the prejudices from society.” On an equal note, she extends the same advice to men, who ”suffer from the stress due to the high professional expectations around them, from the social pressure to perform.”

She highlights that while men and women are equally represented on the SIICA Board, in other contexts “gender equality is still far.” She therefore envisages “a stronger women’s rights movement that will be a driving force to realize important changes.”

RICERCATA is inspired by similar initiatives, including the Wellcome Trust Research Career Re-entry Fellowship, the Daphne Jackson Trust fellowship, the “Donne e Scienza” (Women and Science) association and the PRIMA initiative of the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF).

 Gender equality at Frontiers

Frontiers supports equal opportunities in publishing and pays close attention to gender imbalance and equality.

Frontiers in Immunology strives for equal representation of men and women in the journal’s Editorial Board. Currently, in our Specialty Chief and Associate Editor Board, 1 out of 3 editors is a woman. In more detail, in our Board of Associate Editors, 30% are women (140 out of 470) and, of our 26 Specialty Chief Editors, 35% (9) are women. While we wish to see our philosophy reflected in our Editorial Board, we are interested to know the deeper reasons behind the currently observed gender imbalances and help address them.


For more about the RICERCATA initiative, please visit:

RICERCATA logo

(All in Italian)

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