MSK Launches Women in Science Endeavor, Pledging Commitment to Support Gender Equity in Science

KravisWiSE MSK Women in Science Endeavor

Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (MSK) announces the establishment of the Marie-Josée Kravis Women in Science Endeavor (WiSE) to provide financial and professional support to women scientists pursuing biomedical research at MSK, pledging its commitment  to gender equity in science and paving the way for more women to become leaders in their field.

The initiative is made possible by a generous philanthropic gift from Marie-Josée Kravis, Vice Chair of the MSK Board and Chair of the Sloan Kettering Institute Board, and Henry Kravis, Co-Founder, Co-Chairman, and Co-Chief Executive of KKR, who have a long history of supporting scientific research at MSK. 

“Memorial Sloan Kettering has long recognized the vital importance of recruiting and supporting top female scientists,” Mrs. Kravis said. “Despite this progress, more needs to be done to close the gender gap in research and career opportunities. This initiative will help ensure that talented MSK women reach their greatest potential in their pursuit of scientific excellence.”

Joan Massagué, PhD, Director of the Sloan Kettering Institute, said, “The Sloan Kettering Institute has long benefitted from a partnership with Mrs. Kravis, and we are grateful for her active participation in promoting up-and-coming trainees, celebrating women in science, and investing in professional development. The Marie-Josée Kravis Women in Science Endeavor will help our female scientists continue to blaze the trail forward — bringing pioneering ideas to cancer research while also making their mark on greater female representation in scientific and medical leadership.”

Craig B. Thompson, MD, MSK President and Chief Executive Officer, said, “We are indebted to Marie-Josée and Henry Kravis for recognizing the importance of women scientists to the biomedical community at MSK and beyond. The Women in Science Endeavor celebrates the accomplishments of female scientists and positions our trainees and faculty to be leaders of tomorrow.”

Program Offerings

The new fellowship program will provide sustained funding for scientific trainees as well as mentoring and significant professional development for women pursuing careers in biomedical research at MSK.

The Kravis WiSE Graduate Fellowship will provide a three-year stipend and additional benefits to a female graduate student chosen by a faculty committee through a competitive review process. She will present her work at the Kravis WiSE Symposium, an annual event held in March to mark Women’s History Month. This day-long event will host scientific leaders from MSK and other institutions.

The Kravis WiSE Postdoctoral Fellowship will provide a two-year stipend and additional benefits to a female research associate or fellow who has completed at least three years of post-graduate study chosen by a faculty committee through a competitive review process. The fellow will present her work at the annual Kravis WiSE Symposium and, as a condition of the fellowship, must apply for a K99/R00 National Institutes of Health Pathway to Independence Award to continue her research.

The inaugural Kravis WiSE Symposium will be held July 8-20 and will be presented by MSK Science Spotlight, an online seminar series for the scientific community featuring illuminating lectures by today’s leaders in biomedical science. The grant recipients will discuss their research on July 8 as part of the series, which is available via livestream and open to all. Subsequent lectures will be held on July 13, 15, and 20 featuring leading women in science, including Akiko Iwasaki, PhD, of Yale University of Medicine and Howard Hughes Medical Institute; Ashani Weeraratna, PhD, of Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health; and Viviane Tabar, MD, Chair of the Department of Neurosurgery at MSK and Member of the Cancer Biology and Genetics Program at SKI.

Scientists across MSK will also be eligible for Kravis WiSE Childcare Travel Grants to help defray the costs of childcare at home when parents travel to conferences or the travel expenses of children accompanying a parent on a conference trip. The grants recognize that conference travel is critical to scientists’ career success as the meetings drive learning, collaboration, and recognition.

Program Winners

This year, WiSE will award fellowships to three women, as there were additional resources available because the COVID-19 pandemic forced the institution to cancel in-person events and travel to scientific conferences.

The first Kravis Women in Science Fellowship winners are:

Ushma S. Neill, PhD, Vice President of Scientific Education and Training at MSK, said, “Memorial Sloan Kettering has benefited from more than a century’s worth of guidance and scientific insight from formidable women, starting with one of our founders. This new endeavor will empower us to carry that mission and spirit forward.”