Cancer Research UK’s new ‘Women of Influence’ initiative to support female scientists aims to help path to leadership

Over a third of all women (38 per cent) say lack of confidence in their own abilities and reluctance to push for promotions (37 per cent) is making it harder for them to reach their career goals, according to a new survey by Cancer Research UK.

“Women of Influence initiative will make a huge difference not only in the lives of the researchers but also in the fight against cancer.” – Tamara Box, chairwoman.

And more than half (57 per cent) believe that expert mentoring will equip them with the skills to reach their potential.

The survey of 2,000 women was carried out to launch Cancer Research UK’s pioneering ‘Women of Influence’ initiative. The scheme, which is chaired by Tamara Box, Partner and Head of Structured Finance at Reed Smith, has established a unique network* of senior businesswomen to support the charity’s exceptional young female scientists and clinicians as they move up the career ladder to progress into senior positions. It aims to enable these talented women to reach their potential in becoming inspirational science leaders of the future and raise £1 million to support their life saving research to help beat cancer sooner.

“Confidence helps us reach higher in our careers” said Tamara Box, Chairwoman of the Cancer Research UK Women of Influence board: “Cancer Research UK currently has many well-educated and capable female scientists who should be rising to the top of their professions; our Women of Influence initiative hopes to provide business mentoring as well as financial support in order that their work may be continued even while they have full, multifaceted lives. They in turn will become role models and leaders for the next generation. I’m really thrilled to be part of this inspirational project and am confident that Cancer Research UK’s Women of Influence initiative will make a huge difference not only in the lives of the researchers but also in the fight against cancer.”

The survey also reveals that one in five women (20 per cent) believe that gender discrimination at work has made it more difficult for them to reach their career goals. Interestingly, a quarter of women (26 per cent) felt that adopting stereotypical male characteristics in the workplace could help them to get to the top of their field.**

Maybe unsurprisingly, lack of flexible working arrangements to allow time for childcare are also seen to be a barrier by 27 per cent of women, as are the negative attitudes of employers and colleagues to balancing work and family life (25 per cent). And over half of all women (55 per cent) say those without children are more likely to reach senior positions in the workplace, and close to half (44 per cent) think having children has held them back at work.

The majority of women said that flexible working (68 per cent), training (66 per cent) and financial support for childcare (61 per cent) would aid career progression.

Tamara Box added: “I’m urging other exceptional business women to step forward and help us raise money – the money we raise now will not only fund research to develop new cures sooner so that more people survive cancer but will also ensure that we support and encourage the future female leaders in science.”

Cancer Research UK Fellowship*** awards are given only to the most talented male and female scientists to enable talented young researchers to set up their own research groups at a critical time in their careers. However, as in many sectors, we see a lack of female researchers reaching the most senior positions****.

David Scott, Cancer Research UK’s director of science funding said: “The research we fund will save lives in the future so we need to fund the most talented male and female scientists at all career stages. We see a lack of female researchers moving to the highest levels and we want to address this by supporting our female scientists to achieve their potential, becoming future role models for younger scientists and ultimately helping us to beat cancer sooner.”


For media enquiries contact the Cancer Research UK press office on 020 3469 8315 or, out of hours, on 07050 264 059.


For more information about the Women of Influence initiative, please visit

Research conducted by OnePoll on behalf of Cancer Research UK in January 2014. The 2,000 survey respondents were UK women aged 18+.

Questions about what issues that had made it more difficult for women to reach their career goals were only asked of the 1,970 women in the survey that had ever worked

*Board members:

  • Chairwoman: Tamara Box – Partner and Head of Structured Finance at Reed Smith
  • Board: Chris Browne, Managing Director of Thomson Airways
  • Dena Brumpton, Chief Operating Officer at Citi Private Bank
  • Alison Carnwath, Chairwoman of Land Securities Group Plc
  • Gay Collins, Executive Chairwoman for MHP Communications
  • Ana Concejero, Managing Director at Knight Capital Group
  • Sophie Cornish, Co-Founder and Managing Director of
  • Ann Francke, CEO Chartered Management Institute
  • Deborah Fuhr, Partner & Co-Founder of ETFGI
  • Pippa Malmgren, President and Founder of Principalis Asset Management
  • Cary Marsh, CEO and Founder of
  • Rosemary Martin, Group General Counsel and Company Secretary at Vodafone
  • Esther McVey, Conservative MP for Wirral West and Minister of State for Employment
  • Meribeth Parker, Group Publishing Director at Hearst Magazines
  • Eileen Pembridge, Co-Founder, Senior Partner and Head of the Family Law Department at Fisher Meredith
  • Tracy Robbins, Executive Vice President HR & Group Operations Support, Intercontinental Hotel Group
  • Alison Rose, Head of International Banking, EMEA Division at the Royal Bank of Scotland Group Plc
  • Fiona Timothy, Operating Partner, Better Capital
  • Vanessa Vallely, founder and CEO of the leading women’s business network ‘WeAreTheCity’

** Around a quarter (26 per cent) agreed it would be helpful and a quarter disagreed (25 per cent).

***Types of Cancer Research UK Fellowships

Clinician Scientist Fellowship

The Clinician Scientist Fellowship provides support for medical doctors, nurses, healthcare scientists who hold a research PhD/MD to pursue a career in research and become an independent clinical researcher.

Career Development Fellowship

This Fellowship supports outstanding scientists at the start of their independent careers by providing the opportunity to set up an independent research group for the first time.

Career Establishment Awards

Career Establishment Awards provide five years of funding to enable researchers who have just taken up their first Higher Education Funding Council funded post at a UK university to establish their own research group.

Senior Cancer Research Fellowship

The Senior Cancer Research Fellowship provides an opportunity for outstanding scientists to establish or to further develop an independent research group. The Fellowship is open to both non-clinical researchers and clinician-scientists.

****Around 42 per cent of all academic staff in the UK are women but only 17 per cent make it to senior posts – below the EU average.

Cancer Research UK Fellow – possible case study:

Dr Victoria Sanz-Moreno is a career development fellow at King’s College London. Her Cancer Research UK fellowship has enabled her to set up her own research team, and will support her work for six years. She balances motherhood with leading her thriving new research group. Her group is working to understand the crucial question of how cancer spreads. Once cancer has spread it is difficult to treat successfully, causing the majority of deaths from the disease. Understanding how cancer cells move round the body will speed up the developments of new treatments to stop this happening, ultimately saving lives.

Dr Sanz-Moreno said: “Cancer Research UK called me for an interview to decide whether they would fund my research. It was a coincidence that the interview was scheduled for the same day that my baby was due to arrive. They did their best for me to have the same opportunities as the rest of the candidates and so we had my interview – me and my very big belly – much sooner.

“My baby – Oliver – was born on a Thursday and the next Monday I had a call from Cancer Research UK notifying me that I had been awarded the Fellowship to start up my own lab. That was the best week of my life. I felt so lucky and gifted to have been given the same opportunities as the rest – men or women – it did not matter.”

£25,000 could fund the vital chemicals and apparatus used in experiments by Dr Sanz-Moreno’s team for one year.

£40,000 could support essential equipment needed by Dr Sanz-Moreno and her team for their work. This includes a microscope with a camera so they can track the movement of cells.

£250,000 could support the salaries and associated costs for Dr Sanz-Moreno and two of her researchers for two years.