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Women in science: the missing links; the unesco courier; vol.:2; 2007









2007 - number 2
WomeN iN ScieNce:
The miSSiNg LiNkS
Are women destined to be scientists? They are holding more and more
positions in laboratories and universities. But even if the proportion
of women participating in science increases, they are still far from
playing on an even field with their male colleagues.

This document may be accessed online The UNESCO Courier • 2007 • Number 2
Rare as hens' teeth?
likely to involve the creation of some 700,000 new research-related jobs by 2010 – which Europe will have trouble filling as long as half of its population remain sidelined in the S&T field." A similar picture emerges globally. According to UNESCO's Institute for Statistics (UIS) women make up less than 30 percent of researchers in 34 out of 89 countries surveyed, while only 17 – 18% of countries have gender parity in science and technology research jobs. The picture changes slightly according to disci-pline, with women even forming the majority of Micheline Pelletier/Gamma researchers in life sciences and medicine. But, accord-ing to one observer in the USA, women are "rare as hens teeth" in mathematics and physics. A 1999 study Even if they are far from reaching parity
at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) with their males colleagues, more females
revealed only 15 tenured women faculty in the School than ever are researchers. But they remain
of Science, compared to 194 men. The figure had scarcely changed in the previous two decades, largely absent from the highest rungs of the
although swift policy changes in the light of the profession and must often make difficult
report have gone some way to improve the choices between professional career and
For Renée Clair, UNESCO Executive Secretary of the L'Oréal-UNESCO For Women in Science programme, the 1995 World Conference on Women in Beijing When nuclear physicist, Fay Ajzenberg-Selove, was a (China) marked a turning point in awareness of this post-doctoral researcher at Princeton University gender bias in science. "Before that, the issue didn't (USA) in the 1950s, she had to sneak into the parti- even arise," she says, blaming ingrained and largely cle accelerator building at night to work – it was out unconscious stereotypes that promote the idea that of bounds to women. While this could not happen women "aren't made to do science." As recently as today, a flurry of recent reports shows that women January 2005, the president of Harvard University, scientists are still often at a significant disadvan- Lawrence H. Summers sparked a tage compared to their male colleagues, especially as furor by arguing that innate dif- their careers advance. ferences explain why fewer women succeed in maths and science Data for 2004 just published by the European Com- careers, forcing his resigna- mission show that women make up just 29% of those tion. Findings in psychol- employed as scientists and engineers in the European ogy and neuroscience Union – even fewer (18%) in the business and enter- tends to suggest that prise sector. And it is precisely this sector that is UNESCO/Michel Ravassard social stereotypes are expected to provide the resources for the EU to meet Renée Clair, UNESCO
the most potent neg- its Lisbon Strategy target of 3% of GDP for research Executive Secretary of the
ative influence for L'Oréal-UNESCO For Women
by 2010. According to a 2006 EC publication, "this is in Science programme
girls, although males 4 The UNESCO Courier • 2007 • Number 2
4 and females may differ in the strategies they use to solve the kinds of problems encountered in scientific research. One way to redress the imbalance, says Renée Clair, is to "change the image of science and the image of women in science," by providing attractive role models. After all, of the 513 Nobel Prizes for physics, chemistry and physiology or medicine awarded since 1901, only 12 have gone to women - two of them to the same person, Marie Curie. This, explains Renée Clair, is one function of the L'Oréal-UNESCO For Women in Science prizes awarded each year since 2000 to outstanding women scientists from five continents. The 2006 awards will be 23-year-old Hansi Devi repairs a solar lantern at the
announced in Paris on XX February. Barefoot College in Tilonia, Rajasthan (India) after a 6-
month training course

Boosting the number of female undergraduates studying science is one way towards parity in employ-ment in scientific research, especially in countries One of the difficulties women face is whether to where girls may be denied access to even basic edu- interrupt their career to have children, often just cation. "I didn't even know that one could do research when they also need to intensify their research in mathematics as a career," says Ramdorai Sujatha, output to get ahead. In the Athena survey, more winner of the 2006 Ramanujan prize for her work in women (32%) than men (4%) had taken career breaks. mathematics at the Tata Institute of Fundamental And a higher proportion of women (29%) than men Research in India. "There was absolutely no informa- (14%) reported difficulties in returning to work. For tion dissemination." women, the difficulties were mainly centred on find-ing work, flexible hours of work and childcare, as But recent evidence suggests that other forms of well as the negative attitude of colleagues and man- discrimination emerge during the career of a woman agers. Not surprisingly, more women than men move scientist, effectively barring them from the top jobs ‘sideways' into managerial posts and away from – what has come to be known as the ‘leaky pipeline'. A 2004 survey carried out by the Athena Project, a consortium of UK research funding bodies, universi- Projects like Athena have already begun to bear ties and government science departments launched fruit, with research funding bodies drawing up ‘best in 1999, found little evidence for discrimination at practice' guidelines for equal opportunities, with the bottom of the career ladder. Indeed, women were incentives for research institutes that introduce slightly more likely than men to succeed in their first them. Meanwhile, other obstacles are beginning to application for a lectureship post. But women were emerge. In countries like India, with its technology significantly under-represented at senior levels and, boom, young women are preferring to go for highly- in the older age groups, were more likely to be on paid jobs in information technology – ironically once short-term contracts. an all-male preserve, but increasingly dominated by women. Peter Coles in London, United Kingdom The UNESCO Courier • 2007 • Number 2
Argentina: the illusion of equality
In Argentina, one researcher out of two
the dubious privilege of being the only female associ-ate professor in her specialized field in the University is female. But these numbers hide other
of Buenos Aires' School of Medicine. "Even within this School," she says, "most gradu- ates are women, yet there is not a single one on the Board of Directors. And everyone thinks this is normal. The same applies to Conicet: there is just one woman on its board. In the University of Buenos Aires, it's the same story. These figures conceal the hostility which women suffer on a daily basis." Kochen, who also forms part of the Argentine Net- work of Gender, Science and Technology (RAGCyT), points to an interview she had for an academic job as one example of this hostility. "They asked me what my private life was like, whether I had any children, if I was married…. I asked around, and found that none of the men had been asked the same." Many female scientists; The latest statistics look promising: 46 percent of all scientific researchers in Latin America and the Carib- Women make up 59 percent of university students from bean are women. Argentina, where this figure rises to all disciplines in Argentina. Among those who finish 51 percent, has just broken through the gender parity their degrees, women represent 66 percent of the total, barrier, meaning that women form the majority in a and also achieve on average higher final grades. But research industry made up of 35,300 people. Yet looking at the scientific and teaching profession as a behind these rosy-looking numbers lurks the truth whole, it is clear that the presence of women thins out 4 that women are still far from achieving real equality. "The statistics are interesting in that they reveal how a critical mass of women has occupied this sector, but we still have to see what else is taking place. When you look at the whole life-span of careers in science, you see how the proportion of women starts to decline, that women don't hold important positions, that there is no equity in access to grants, which has serious repercussions for a researcher's autonomy and ends up generating more inequality," argues Silvia Kochen, a doctor of medicine and neurologist, currently employed as a researcher by the National Council of Scientific and Technical Research (Conicet). Kochen is also a member of specialist neurological associations, and has Students in chemistry lab
The UNESCO Courier • 2007 • Number 2
4 at the top: over the last few years, for instance, the percentage of female grantees has risen over 50 per-cent, but the percentage of women classified as "high researchers" - the top category - has stayed extremely low at 10 percent. The same applies to the class of independent researchers, one step below the top research grade, where women make up 25 percent of the total. Research institutes are mostly run by men, with the exception of those linked to the study of phi-losophy and literature. In Conicet, meanwhile, women make up around 40 percent of total research staff, but represent only 12 percent of the Qualification and Pro-motion Board, and a similar number in other standing These figures are to be found in the report Wom- en's participation in science and technology in Argen- tina, prepared in 2003 by María Elina Estébanez, who states that the situation has changed little since the The best strategy, Girbal insists, is to lay bare the ine- study was drafted. The information provided by 290 qualities and hurdles to gender parity, which are far male and female researchers for her report also shows from being insuperable, and can be altered by political that women as well as men tend to prefer male scien- decisions. In the Sixth Iberoamerican Science, Tech- tific role models, such as in their choice of research nology and Gender Congress, held in the Spanish city supervisors. But the report also identifies the spe- of Zaragoza in September 2006, she made precisely cific obstacles that women face in their careers: the this argument in her paper Sex in science. An assess- surveyed scientists declared that marriage and chil- ment of gender equality in the Argentine scientific dren do affect the development of a career in science, system, which included several noteworthy observa- and that this is made worse by the fact that doctor- tions: "There are no female deans in private universi- ates, post-doctorate studies and trips to international ties, and very few in public ones. In scientific journals, congresses coincide with a woman's fertile age. the editors and editorial committee are often men, but articles are written by women, meaning that they do Within Conicet, top appointments are made by gov- the work. On the other hand, we cannot maintain that ernment officials, who make their choices from a list of in Argentina – unlike other countries – there are still candidates put forward by working researchers. Noemí wage differentials between male and female scientists; Girbal is the first, and for now the only woman to have yet there is no doubt that differences arise as women been chosen by her peers and to have made it to the are prevented from reaching certain posts. That is why Board of Directors. The other seven directors, including I say this is not about substantive economic inequal- the chair and two deputy chairs, are men. A doctor in ity, but essentially a question of prestige and power." history and a higher researcher, Girbal, who secured a second term as a director in 2005, has argued in public "None of this is reflected in the statistics, but is against affirmative action for women. She insists that hidden: we have to deal with it in a different way, by it is important not to be led astray by stop-gap, make- looking into the deeper causes behind what is going shift solutions, but to get to the roots of the problem: on," says Kochen, who insists on the end to draw up "scientific language conveys political power. Participa- new indicators, a project that has been underway for tion in the world of science has a lot to do with power, several years in RAGCyT. management, and the prestige of arriving at certain career rankings – and all of that is male." Soledad Vallejos in Buenos Aires, Argentina The UNESCO Courier • 2007 • Number 2
Budding Plant
Laureate for Africa of the 2007 L'ORÉAL-
UNESCO Awards, Ameenah Gurib-Fakim
has spent much of her life taking
inventory of plants in her homeland,
Mauritius.

Micheline Pelletier/Gamma What if, one day soon, medicinal plants could cure Kingdom), has devoted much of her life to tracking diarrhea in children, at little cost? Or bitter melon – the myriad plants of her native land, the island of Momordica charantia – provide a treatment for cer- tain forms of diabetes? Ameenah Gurib-Fakim believes in this. Her team has actually investigated the vir- Back when she began, the study of the yellow fan tues of the exotic fruit, which acts as a starch blocker palm, bois goudron (Antirrhoa frangulacea) or liane to slow the release of free glucose into the calli (Sarcostemma viminale) was hardly in vogue among young scientists. "Plant research wasn't very credible," she admits. Even less so for a female When you see Professor Gurib-Fakim sitting at her researcher. "When you're a woman, it's only when pro-vice-chancellor's desk at the University of Mauri- you've made it past the barrier of prejudice and you tius, elegant in her tailored suit, her appearance have a list of accomplishments that you're taken seri- doesn't exactly evoke the countryside. Yet the 45- ously. That's why many women give up along the year-old professor of organic chemistry, who received way," deplores the scientist and mother of two.
her degree from the University of Exeter (United A long-term project Ameenah Gurib-Fakim didn't give up. On the contrary. Thanks to her, a full inventory exists of the medici-nal and aromatic plants on Mauritius and the neigh-boring island of Rodriguez. A long-term project, considering Mauritius is a true reservoir of biodiver-sity. Out of 634 known medicinal plants, 15% are endemic (i.e., found only on the island). Professor Gurib-Fakim took a particular interest in the pharmacological properties of these plants, an aspect not covered in previous studies. In addition to taking the usual samples, the researcher and her team visited villages to collect traditional knowl- Micheline Pelletier/Gamma edge. They had to get past the resistance of local 4 The UNESCO Courier • 2007 • Number 2
4 healers, not always enthusiastic about sharing their wisdom with outsiders. As a number of these plants could be used as alternatives to commercial medicines sold in phar-macies, the interest they represent is more than anecdotal. Nearly 80% of the population of poor countries already relies on medicinal plants for treatment. What matters now is making sure the poor countries don't miss out on the commercial exploitation of these products, for the profit of big industrial firms. "Africa has already lost so much," declares Gurib- Fakim, due to the absence of a legal framework to protect intellectual property. This was one of her reasons for becoming a founding member of the Asso-ciation for African Medicinal Plants Standards. Since its creation in 2005, the organization, which regroups scientists, industrialists, exporters and herbal thera-pists, has pursued its aim to bring to the world market African plant remedies that meet interna-tional norms.
The initiative is promising, as long as these plants Micheline Pelletier/Gamma with their multiple benefits don't die out. And some are already threatened. On Rodrigues, out of 193 medicinal plants, 23 of them endemic, about "When we give endemic plants value as ornamental 20 have dwindled down to only one or two clumps. plants, it helps to propagate them," she explains. "Young people have to be made aware that plants are both rare and useful," she stresses. As a con- The international recognition she is receiving tribution, she published a guide book in 1983 on today will certainly be helpful to her cause. It also the flora of Mauritius intended for the general distinguishes this woman scientist as a role model of success for young female scientists in the South. "To encourage girls," she insists, "you have to impart Ameenah Gurib-Fakim doesn't hesitate to come out self-confidence very early on, so that they believe of her laboratory to advocate for plants. In 1998, she they have a chance to succeed." participated in a World Bank project to create small gardens in schools to cultivate medicinal plants. Amina Osman, in Port Louis, Mauritius The UNESCO Courier • 2007 • Number 2
The trailing spouse syndrome
Women scientists, especially physicists, are likely to marry other scientists – which can
create problems if both partners look for jobs at the same institution.

research groups." In the USA, she adds, "it would have been much more difficult to work part time when my children were small - and to have main-tained the respect of my colleagues while doing that." It's even harder for physicists The ‘dual-career' problem is at its most acute in phys-ics, where the gender gap is at its widest. Out of roughly 40,000 members of the American Physical Society, only about 2,400 (6%) are women. And, Micheline Pelletier/Gamma according to a major survey of women physicists car-ried out in 1998 by Laurie McNeil of the University of North Carolina and Marc Sher of the College of Wil- Like about half of her friends at the time, molecular liam and Mary, about 68% are married to scientists, biologist, Claire Wyman, met her husband, Roland half of them physicists. Even though a smaller pro- Kanaar, when they were graduate students at the portion (17%) of male physicists marry scientists, University of California, Berkeley (USA). The crunch the study suggests "it is increasingly likely that the came when they both started to look for permanent top candidate in a search (for a job) will have a jobs. "We were open to all sorts of options in terms spouse who is also seeking professional employ- of jobs and where we might end up," she says. But, ment." In most cases, if there is no opening for the as Roland was slightly ahead of Claire in his career at spouse, he or she is expected to accept a part-time, the time, "he was offered three pretty good posi- or less secure job, dependent on grant funding. And, tions and I didn't even get an interview." Claire did according to the survey, "the lower-level offer goes not want to live apart from her husband, or to take a more commonly to the female member of the couple." teaching job – alternatives that face many young, This, obviously, perpetuates the scarcity of women in dual-career scientists. So the couple decided to take high-level physics research. up one of the offers, and move to the Netherlands, where Roland was born. According to the survey, some university faculties in the USA find dual-career couples an awkward com- At Erasmus University, Claire could work part- plication, which they would rather avoid. "I went to time, which, she says, "was virtually unheard of in a number of job interviews," says geographer, Ruther- universities in the USA at the time." They found the ford Platt, of Gettysburg College, "and some were flexibility at Erasmus enabled Claire to take time quite unprofessional. I had people pull me aside and off to have children, while remaining active in her ask me about my spouse, whether she was in academia field, supported by grants. "I was finally offered an and looking for a job as well." But, as more women associate professor position in the same depart- compete for permanent positions in science faculties ment as my husband," she says. "We ended up work- in the USA, higher education institutions are under ing on the same topic and now have overlapping pressure to become more flexible.
The UNESCO Courier • 2007 • Number 2
4 Creative solutions One solution, originally favored by smaller teaching universities, like Gettysburg, and slowly catching on in major research institutions, is to split a tenured position into two, part-time posts. This is particu-larly attractive to young academics looking for their first tenured job. "We have a joint appointment now," says Ruther- ford Platt. "My wife and I are considered 1.5 people. I've maintained my full-time position and Monica has a part-time, tenure-track position. She's a permanent part of the faculty and has half of the teaching obli-gations. We have a small child and that works well for us. It would have been harder to negotiate two full-time positions. This is better for us, at our point in our life." Rutherford Platt acknowledges that they were fortunate. "We both fit in the same department," he says, "but our expertise is different. We compliment each other. If two people are in different depart-ments, one of the departments may have no incen-tive to make it work for the other person." Increasingly, says Claire Wyman, the male partner may well be the ‘trailing spouse', and even the big research universities in the USA are willing to find a solution, especially for more senior positions. "There are many more highly talented and desirable female scientists now," she says, "and I see universities maybe you do that. It can be a matter of market accommodating them. I don't think it's because they forces. And women are more interested in demanding are enlightened. If you want that person to come, an appointment for their partner than a building you have to accommodate what they want. If what named after them." they want is a building named after them, then you do that. If they want a position for their partner, Peter Coles in London, United Kingdom The UNESCO Courier • 2007 • Number 2
"We need the best people
as scientists"
Baroness Greenfield, Professor of

than when I was an undergraduate and there were pharmacology at Oxford University and
relatively few women students. Now, in biomedical author of a UK report on women in
sciences, almost 50% of the students are women but science, advocates stronger strategic
there are still problems in the physical sciences. I think that at the junior level it is getting easier for approaches to addressing the issue of
women to do this. However, there are still serious female under-representation in scientific
problems as women progress in their careers. The report (SET FAIR, 2002) shows that in the physical sciences, you have 90% men and 10% women Question: What is the situation of women in the
across the board. In biological sciences, however, field of science?
there are about the same number of men and women in the beginning of university studies. But around Answer: It has changed a lot over the past ten or the late 20's, early 30s, women begin to drop out. By twenty years, but there is still a lot of work to be the stage of Professor, the rate in biological sciences done. It is easier now for women at the junior level is just as bad as for the physical sciences, that is 90% men and 10% women.
Question: What is the biggest hurdle that women
science researchers face?

Answer: In particular, as you can see in my report, the big problem is for women in their late 20's when they have to make a choice about whether to have children. Do they choose not to have children and carry on doing science? This is what I did. Or do they choose to have children at the biologically optimal age but run the risk that they won't come back to a job at all because they don't yet have tenure? Or do they delay having a child until they are beyond the biologically optimal age, in which case they may run into fertility issues? None of these choices are really ideal for women—it's a problem that hasn't been solved. How can the scientific community accommo-date women so that they can have children without compromising their careers? How can we allow women scientists to have as much choice as they want? Question: What can we do to change things?
Answer: There is no quick fix. Men and childless Baroness Susan Greenfield women are not taking time off. If you are taking 4 The UNESCO Courier • 2007 • Number 2
Micheline Pelletier/Gamma Margaret Brimble, New Zealand
4 time off, it is happening just at the time that you potential. If you have great potential as a scientist it have to publish papers to get ahead. One option that is a great shame if you are prevented from doing that I have proposed is a funding scheme that give money because you are a woman. Also the world can't afford to women who have children. That way women who to have all that expensive education and training want children could apply for a fellowship that is not available to anyone else. This enables women to come back and work for two years to reestablish Question: What opportunities are there for young
themselves in their field. They would be competing women studying science today?
with other women in the same situation.
Answer: What women don't realize is that science has Question: Why is the lack of women in science
a very exciting range of options. So for example, I am in the House of Lords now—and there are about 10% of us who have some sort of science credentials. Answer: Because we are entering into an era where It is hugely exciting to go into politics or to do law science and technology are at the centre of society, or the media as a scientist. It is not just bench sci- and we need the best people as scientists. Not just ence because science is so central now. Traditionally doing research, but in the media, politics, industry. the worst sectors in terms of female representation You need the best possible brains and it is crazy to are biotechnology and academia. eliminate 50% of the talent. And also each individual should be able to fulfill herself to the best of her Interview by Edna Yahil The UNESCO Courier • 2007 • Number 2
No statistics, no problem,
no policy.
Myanmar has the world's highest
proportion of women researchers at 85%,
according to the UNESCO Institute for
Statistics. But why are research hotspots
like China and the United States missing
from the list of 100 countries with
available data? A careful look behind the
statistics.

Only about one-quarter of the world's researchers are women, according to estimates by the UNESCO Insti- UNESCO/Niamh Burke tute for Statistics (UIS). This is hardly surprising, Analysis of water samples for trace elements, Athens,
given the hidden barriers and glass ceilings of so many laboratories and lecture halls. respectively, topping the list of about 100 countries But eyebrows might rise after a closer look at the and territories. But the Institute cannot provide statistics illustrated in the map below, where research these statistics for countries like Australia or the US.
magnets – like China, the United Kingdom and the United States – slip into the grey zone of ‘no data Detailed information, but not Are these countries ignoring women in science? Or And yet the US probably collects some of the most is the UIS sleeping on the job? Fortunately, the detailed information on the gender, ethnicity and answer is no to both questions. But these countries disability status of its scientists. The National Sci- are using different techniques to collect the data ence Foundation (NSF) isn't just counting the number which cannot be compared internationally. of women scientists and engineers but keeping tabs on the numbers of patents they receive and even For example, the UIS and other organizations gen- their demographic circumstances. erally rely upon headcounts of men and women work-ing in these fields. But many of the most developed For example, men on average have 12 subordi- countries calculate full-time equivalencies instead. nates compared to nine for women, among supervisor "So they're not actually counting people but shifts," scientists and engineers in the private sector. The explains Ernesto Fernández Polcuch, who is responsi- NSF has also found that family responsibilities are ble for science and technology (S&T) statistics at cited as the reason for not working by about 27% of women with science and engineering doctorates who are either unemployed or out of the labor force com- So strangely enough, the UIS can report that pared to just 1.5% of men. Women scientists and Myanmar and Lesotho have the world's highest pro- engineers are also more likely than men to be portions of women researchers at 85% and 76% divorced and separated. The UNESCO Courier • 2007 • Number 2
This gold-mine of information can lay the founda- mission's Helsinki Group on Women in Science. In tions for national policy-making, even if most of the contrast, many of the newer members of the Euro- data cannot be compared internationally. But for pean Union and associated countries benefit from other countries, like those of the European Union, the communist legacy of good statistics and high comparability is critical in efforts to harmonize sci- proportions of women scientists and researchers.
ence policies and put women researchers on the political agenda. Finding innovative monitoring "No statistics, no problem, no policy," as stated by Dr Hilary Rose* of University of Bradford (UK). Through the Helsinki Group, a network of statisti- "You just get gestures. Statistics help identify prob- cians is trying to better identify and monitor the lems and can monitor the effectiveness of factors that bring women in and out of the research field. They are not simply looking at how many women pursue research but how they progress in Rose's comments resonate in countries like Aus- tria, Germany and The Netherlands, where there are low percentages of female scientists and relatively For example, to what extent do women set the little data on them, according to the European Com- scientific agenda? Part of the answer lies in the 4 Map: UNESCO Institute for Statistics Share of women researchers, 2003 (UIS)
The UNESCO Courier • 2007 • Number 2
4 composition of scientific boards. Only in Finland and the UIS, Eurostat and the Organisation for Economic Sweden do women constitute more than 40% of board Co-operation and Development (OECD). members, followed by the UK and Denmark with more than 30%. But in most EU countries, the share varies Inspired by a US survey, the three organizations from one in five to even less than one in ten, accord- have developed a way to track the careers of doctor- ing to the report She Figures 2006. ate holders internationally. In particular, the UIS designed a model questionnaire to help countries Another innovative tool is the Glass Ceiling Index, with little experience in this field conduct their own which compares women's and men's chances of reach- surveys. So for the first time, developing and indus- ing a top academic position. Basically the higher the trialized countries will be able to compare the sala- score, the ‘thicker' the so-called ceiling to women's ries of male and female engineers, for example, or advancement. Romania and Turkey report the most the time it takes them to find jobs in their field. positive results, with 1.1 and 1.4 respectively, com-pared to the EU average of 2.1. In contrast, the A number of countries have already piloted the greatest barriers were found in Malta (11.7) followed survey, while others prepare to implement it. The by Lithuania (3.2). results, expected by 2008, should considerably expand the global perspective on women in science At the UIS, Fernández Polcuch dreams of collect- while shrinking those disconcerting grey zones of ‘no ing this kind of data internationally. While glass ceil- data available'. ings are beyond his reach, he will soon have a new source of data arising from a joint project between Amy Otchet, UNESCO Institute for Statistics (UIS) The UNESCO Courier • 2007 • Number 2
The Courier looks back
The October 1967 issue of The UNESCO Courier carried
an excerpt of a memorandum on international science
scholarships presented by Marie Curie to the League
of Nations in 1926. Twice laureate of the Nobel Prize,
for chemistry and physics, she made a plea for the
encouragement of vocations in science.

"At this post-university stage of their lives, young students who contemplate careers in science are brought face to face with pressing demands. In most cases the family has done its utmost to help the young man or woman to come this far and, unable to make further sacrifices, it now asks them to become self supporting. And even in well-to-do families the wish to take up very advanced studies may encounter a lack of understanding, such stud-ies being considered as an extravagance or a mere whim. Yet what in fact are the best interests of society in this matter? Should it not give every encouragement to those called to a scientific vocation? Is it really so well-endowed that it can afford to reject the vocations it is offered? I believe, on the basis of personal experience, that the sum total of the aptitudes called for by a true scien- tific vocation is an infinitely frail and precious thing, a rare treasure that is both absurd and criminal to throw away, a gift to which great care must be devoted so that it may grow and fructify. What, in reality, are some of the qualities required of the person who aspires to success in the field of inde- pendent scientific research? The intellectual qualities are an intelligence capable of learning and understanding, a sure judgment capable of appraising the significance of theoretical and experimental demonstrations, an imagination capable of creative effort. Equally important are the moral faculties: perseverance, zeal and above all the unselfish dedication that guides the novice along a path which, in most cases, will never lead him to material rewards comparable to those offered by careers in industry or business. Thus to foster and safeguard the scientific vocation is a sacred duty for each society which has the inter- ests of the future at heart. It is gratifying to see that public opinion is becoming increasingly conscious of this duty". Marie Curie The UNESCO Courier • 2007 • Number 2
"Science has neither frontiers nor
Ligia Gargallo, a professor at the Catholic
Pontifical University of Chile, located
in Santiago, is the winner of the 2007
L'Oréal-UNESCO prize for Latin America.
In her opinion, the relative scarcity of
women in science is the effect of cultural
bias, which education can and must help
overcome.

Micheline Pelletier/Gamma When you come face-to-face with a scientific prob-
lem, do you feel there is a distinctively female
approach, a sort of sixth sense?

I believe there is room for all sorts of human beings. One single scientific phenomenon can be viewed in different ways according to the characteristics, curi- wage differentials or other sorts of differences with
osity and emotions of the observer. This means that male researchers?
the way to enrich science is to draw equal contribu-tions from both genders. Female scientists are in a minority in Latin America, as they are in Chile. Inequality of course becomes Is it possible to speak of a specifically female con-
more or less visible according to the specific field tribution to science?
you are looking at. But the relative lack of women in science is in the first place a cultural problem, Science has neither frontiers nor gender barriers. It although you must not rule out the possibility that is one discipline, and it is completely global. What I some women deliberately choose not to study sci- will say is that the contribution of women is much ence. In any case, it is clear that we urgently need smaller than it should be. I think it's a fantastic idea to draw up programmes that will enable us to to spur women to study science and encourage more encourage young talented people. We should start women to become professional scientists. Besides to work from high school onwards to stimulate a everything else, they can give a lot to science, such love for science. Young women must be convinced as their female intuition, their sensibility and their that they can rise to be outstanding scientists with- out giving up their entitlement to motherhood, if that is what they want. What are conditions like for women scientists in
As regards wages, there are still differences Latin America, and particularly Chile? Are there
between men and women in industrial science, 4 The UNESCO Courier • 2007 • Number 2
4 though thankfully they have practically disappeared new and modern materials such as polystyrene, from the academic environment. polymethacrylates, nylon and polyethylene, are part of our daily lives, and have taken the place of older Could you explain for us the main research that you
substances. We are currently studying the properties are doing at the moment?
of these synthetic polymers when they are disturbed by mechanical or electrical forces, with the aim of I work in fundamental science, especially in com- understanding why they becomes viscous or elastic, pound systems built out of large molecules, giant for example. We are convinced that the only way to molecules, macromolecules or polymers. These types use these materials in new technologies to the bene- of systems can be found everywhere, but their behav- fit of mankind is by understanding what is going on iour is complex and quite different from that of small at the most basic, fundamental level – and that is molecules. Natural polymers such as proteins, what we are looking for. polysaccharides, cellulose and starch form part of living beings. And synthetic polymers, for instance UNESCO's Santiago Office (Chile) in collaboration with L'Oréal Chile Discoverers - Portraits of Women
by José Banaag The first woman to receive the She entered the University of This Prague-born doctor worked Nobel Prize in 1903, for physics, Vienna only in 1901 because of as a researcher for free while her she and her French husband dis- restrictions on women's enrol- husband taught pharmacology at covered natural radioactivity. ment. She concentrated in the same American university. Further research led her to the nuclear physics, collaborating for Their long professional partner- new elements radium and polo- 30 years with Nobel laureate Otto ship was crowned with a Nobel nium, named after her native Hahn. Together, they developed Prize in 1947 for discovering the Poland. For this, she was the sole uranium fission. metabolism of glycogen. laureate of another Nobel, in Photo: American Institute of Physics, Emilio Photo: The Nobel Foundation, Stockholm 1911, for chemistry. Segrè Visual Archives Photo: The Nobel Foundation, Stockholm The UNESCO Courier • 2007 • Number 2
Irène Joliot-Curie Rita Levi-Montalcini Mayer (1906-1972) Daughter of Marie Curie, wife of a For love of physics, this unem- In 1936, Mussolini passed laws physicist, she and her husband ployed wife of a university pro- discriminating against non-Aryan discovered artificial radioactive fessor continued her research Italians. This doctor built a secret elements for which they shared through the American Depres- laboratory in her bedroom, the the Nobel Prize in 1935. She sion. She and two other physi- first of several wartime hideouts. actively campaigned for the cists made important discoveries She shared the Nobel Prize with a social and intellectual advance- on the nuclear shell structure, colleague in 1986 for discovering ment of women in France. receiving the Nobel Prize in growth factors essential in the Photo: The Nobel Foundation, Stockholm treatment of severe burns. Photo: The Nobel Foundation, Stockholm Photo: The Nobel Foundation, Stockholm Barbara McClintock Grace Murray Hopper Dorothy Crowfoot Hodgkin (1910-1994) Sole recipient of the 1983 Nobel She was the first to use the term She devoted most of her life Prize in Physiology or Medicine, "bug" when she opened her mal- teaching chemistry in women's this American geneticist observed functioning computer and found colleges in the United Kingdom. coloration patterns of maize ker- a moth inside. This mathemati- Her research led her to crack the nels. She found that genes are cian and rear admiral of the structures of biochemical sub- mobile, that they can move United States Navy is one of the stances, notably penicillin, vita- around chromosomes. developers of UNIVAC, the first min B12 and insulin. She was Photo: The Nobel Foundation, Stockholm commercial computer, in the late awarded an unshared Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1964. Photo: Courtesy of UPI/Cortis-Bettman Photo: The Nobel Foundation, Stockholm The UNESCO Courier • 2007 • Number 2
When her father went bankrupt Graduate schools were reluctant While at Cambridge Observatory during the American Depression, to grant fellowships to women, in 1967, she and fellow astrono- she got a scholarship. When labo- so she worked as a secretary at mer Anthony Hewish discovered ratories offered few jobs for Columbia University. Her later pulsars - quickly rotating, women, she found an assistant- career in physics culminated in strongly magnetised neutron ship without pay. She discovered the invention of a technique to stars which regularly emit radio acyclovir, an antiviral treatment measure the amount of insulin for signals. Today there are 700 against herpes and chicken pox, which she received the 1977 receiving the Nobel Prize in Photo: 1998 WGBH Photo: The Nobel Foundation, Stockholm Photo: The Nobel Foundation, Stockholm Rosalind Franklin Christiane Nüsslein- Because her father frowned on Some 40,000 fruit fly families She and fellow American Richard higher education for women, an provided the keys to her ground- Axel received the 2004 Nobel aunt offered to pay her dues at breaking study of early embryonic Prize for giving a deeper under- Cambridge University. This scien- development, useful for scien- standing of our sense of smell. tist's study of living cells led to tists to better understand human They catalogued odorant recep- crucial keys in the molecular development. The Nobel Founda- tors, describing the vast family structure of DNA. She also made tion awarded the 1995 prize to of 1,000 genes which enable us important findings in virology. this German geneticist and two to recognize some 10,000 differ- Photo : Courtesy of the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Archives Photo: The Nobel Foundation, Stockholm Photo: The Nobel Foundation, Stockholm The UNESCO Courier • 2007 • Number 2
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