By Steve Blanchard - February 05, 2024
Women are underrepresented in research leadership roles, especially Black and African American women. That’s just one reason why Amber Skinner is so happy to be a part of the Research Diversity Workforce Development team at Moffitt Cancer Center.
In her role as program manager, it’s Skinner’s job to provide plans to enhance diversity recruitment and retention on the research workforce side of Moffitt.
“We aim to eliminate barriers to recruitment and retention,” she said. “It’s our mission to create or foster an inclusive, equitable research environment.”
One of the mainstays of a National Cancer Institute cancer center is to service underrepresented populations in biomedical research. These populations include marginalized racial and ethnic communities but also individuals who may have disabilities, first generation college students, gender in specific biomedical fields and more. Skinner works across all cancer research programs to ensure Moffitt’s workforce is reflective of the communities we serve.
It’s a perfect fit for Skinner, who joined Moffitt in 2017 as the Adolescent and Young Adult program coordinator. In 2023, when the office of Research Diversity Workforce Development was launched under a new associate center director, Dr. Brian Gonzalez, Skinner became interested in the new team and soon found herself applying for her new position there, which she started just before the end of 2023.
“It is really a full circle moment for me,” Skinner said. “Throughout my life I was part of programs to expose me to science and STEM and now I am in the position to do the same for others just like me. We have a wonderful Enterprise Equity team here and Moffitt is so supportive of expanding our efforts to create programs that enhance our mission to prevent and cure cancer.”
Skinner, who has three daughters of her own, hopes that the work Moffitt is doing through Research Diversity Workforce Development will inspire young people of all backgrounds to pursue careers in science and medicine. It’s a career path that may seem unreachable or unknown by many in underserved or marginalized communities. She hopes that her work will not only impact many marginalized communities in the Tampa Bay area but also directly benefit her children, as well.
For her part in the department, Skinner works on managing demographic data collection and program implementation to recruit, retain and develop the current and future diverse and inclusive research workforce at Moffitt.
“It’s about representation, which is so important,” Skinner said. “Seeing a woman of color in a role, or whomever represents you, matters. It makes you feel more comfortable asking questions and to get the information you really need. I know that’s how I felt as a student and as a young professional.”
Skinner said she is excited to help recruit diverse talent into Moffitt and create opportunities for the workforce that could lead to leadership roles.
Being exposed to leaders that were Black women who looked like Skinner made her realize that she had many options. It’s her hope that her new role at Moffitt will continue that for those who are following in her footsteps.
It’s also important to realize that her work is not just a numbers game. It’s about reaching professionals and inspiring them to pursue careers they may not have considered.
“It’s one thing to improve diversity,” Skinner said. “But it’s about the quality of recruitment and maintaining an inclusive culture at Moffitt that retains the diverse talent and enhances our research workforce. A more diverse faculty is going to bring innovative ideas and conduct research on health disparities, which is so needed in the cancer world.”