Janice Bailey

Scientific director, Fonds de recherche du Québec – Nature et technologies

“Even now, women are first judged by their appearance. My role leaves me exposed. I’m sure it will be uncomfortable at times. But, so what?”

An accomplished scientist and shining example of women’s leadership, Janice Bailey is Scientific Director for Fonds de recherche du Québec – Nature et technologies (FRQNT). She holds a Ph.D. in animal reproduction from Guelph University and a postdoctoral fellowship from the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. Prior to joining the FRQNT, she was a professor in animal science at Laval University where she also served as Associate Dean of Research for the Faculty of Agriculture and Nutrition Sciences. She is a strong advocate for excellence in scientific research and gender parity at the helm of strategic research networks.

In Janice Bailey’s world, every minute counts. Symposiums, launches, events, conferences: she goes wherever she can share her vision of excellence in research, build new partnerships, encourage diverse research journeys, and respond to public concerns.

The pandemic made us realize just how crucial science is to our society. “I agree. Science can play major roles in environmental, climate, biodiversity, and health crises like COVID-19.”

Despite her busy schedule, she agreed generously to join the Audacieuses and add the collective shaving day to her calendar. “I don’t particularly enjoy being the centre of attention but I do understand that I hold a prominent position as a role model of women in science. If you can see it, you can be it. It’s an honour for me to join those inspiring women from various horizons.”

When Leucan explained to the scientist that her participation implied getting her head shaved, she did not even flinch. “I had already accepted an unexpected invitation; an opportunity to promote women’s place in science. I was taken aback a little when I was told about the head shaving part. But my answer was simply, ‘Ah, OK.’ How could I agree to serve as a role model, only to back down because of that? Hair is superficial. I’m much more nervous about raising money.”

Cancer, We Meet Again

Janice Bailey is joining in the adventure because she knows the key role research plays in childhood cancer. “It’s important to fund research in general, and it’s too bad we need that type of effort to do so. It’s a daily combat.”

On a more personal level, she was diagnosed with breast cancer at the very beginning of the pandemic in the spring of 2020. “I had to cope with the unknown, with appointments getting cancelled or postponed. But I was one of the lucky ones, undergoing two surgeries and a round of radiation therapy.”

She can only imagine the distress of Leucan families. “I think about parents living far from urban centres having to cope with the stress of a sick child, family obligations, work responsibilities, travelling back and forth, all the uncertainties. If this simple gesture can improve the lives of children and their families...”

Fighting Against Diktats

In Janice Bailey’s experience, women’s appearance is seen differently in scientific spheres. In a laboratory, a shaved head is probably perceived more positively than a flamboyant manicure, flashy jewelry, or high heels. “Unfortunately, beautiful and proud women might lose some credibility and not be seen as serious scientists. But what difference does it make if a woman loves wearing make-up? These are the little things we do to give ourselves an extra shot of confidence. We should be respectful of everyone’s individuality.” Janice militates against all diktats. Hair or no hair.

Since she plays a public role, she will have to deal with how people perceive her. “Even now, women are first judged by their appearance. My role leaves me exposed. I’m sure it will be uncomfortable at times. But, so what?” She will show herself without artifice. Her mother gifted her a hat Janice will only wear if she is cold. “Maybe I’ll try on some earrings. I did however get a good neck cream. I’m 57 after all!” she says with a laugh.

What inspires her the most is this sisterhood she sees developing between her fellow Audacieuses. “I really enjoy being part of a team, and it’s this sense of solidarity that spurs me the most about this initiative. I love seeing all those small faces together on my screen, to know that I’m a part of this wonderful team!” She looks forward to meeting the team (in person!) and already expects this to be a memorable relationship.