International Women's Day 2018: Huan Chen, Head, Women’s and Child Health Program

It’s International Women’s Day and this year’s theme is #PressForProgress. What does the word “progress” mean to you in regards to women and gender?

I think it means a better environment where women have equal access to health care services, and equal rights to be healthy.

What does gender equity mean to you as a health researcher?

We do research to improve health for all. However, there are diverse and complex factors affecting the health of men and women. With a gender perspective, we will identify best practice for women and men respectively with a consideration of factors beyond health sector.

What impact will your research have on women’s health around the world?

My current research is on the management of gestational complications and innovative intervention for this condition. Some gestational diseases have long term adverse effect to women’s health in their elder age, and are not easy to manage. I hope my research could identify the best practice to improve women’s health during pregnancy.

In recent years there has been an increasing effort to encourage girls to enter STEMM fields (Science, Technology, Engineering, Maths and Medicine). As an academic, what are your thoughts on how we could better achieve gender equity in research?

In some countries, the prejudice that girls are not good at STEMM-related disciplines still exists. With such kind of inherent labels in mind, girls are less confident in choosing STEMM as their life-long career, and often have less chances to fulfil their potentials in these areas when they grow up. Breaking-up these prejudices in society through equal education and constant advocacy should be the first step to achieve gender equity in research.

Another important issue for success of female research is equal opportunity provided by research institutes and employers for career development and recognition. More commitment and less opportunity become unspoken barriers for female to achieve equal success as male in almost all business world. To encourage and invest in career development, and to provide equal opportunity for female researchers to take senior roles should be adopted as policy in research institute to achieve gender equity.

What do you think are the biggest challenges and priorities for women internationally right now, and what are the biggest opportunities for the future? 

Not every woman in the world receives proper education and becomes economically independent in her later life. This largely limits the development of women, and their children. So my view is that education for girls and economic empowerment for women should be priority to address internationally.

Quite a number of goals under the Sustainable Development Goals are related to women, and they are undoubtedly the biggest opportunity for women in the future.

Why are days like International Women’s Day important to you?

It reminds me that as a female, we are as talented as males by nature, we can be as successful as males, and we deserve the equal rights and opportunities to achieve so.