“In R&D, women are underrepresented, at least in our group. Biomedical development is traditionally a male-dominated discipline, mostly engineers. Also, during my studies, mechanical engineering was male-dominated,” she says. “Our group is quite small, with two women among the seven people in the core team, but if you count fellows and students, though, it’s a nice mix.”
Hofmann-Fliri values the perspectives offered by her colleagues and partners.
“I had the honor to work on some projects with a female surgeon, which is very rare still: An Sermon from Leuven, Belgium,” Hofmann-Fliri recalls. “She told me that it wasn’t so easy for her as a woman in her careers, due to the men laughing at her, saying things like, ‘How do you want to do hip surgery? You need to be strong.’ [But] she always managed to show what she can do.”
Hofmann-Fliri has sometimes been shocked to hear similarly disrespectful comments made to subordinates, but she believes behaviors are changing as surgeons trained in part at ARI gradually take on leadership roles and become role models themselves.
“I think one thing contributing to the change is the fellowship program ARI Director Geoff Richards set up years ago. The fellows had a good example of how to treat people with respect,” she adds.
As the mother of two young children, Hofmann-Fliri knows all too well the value of role models and mentors.
“I see as a parent how we can influence others by how we behave and how we treat people, and how we live our lives, how we see life, how we handle problems, and how these influence our perspectives,” she says.