Building peace in the minds of men and women

Female scientists who are changing the world

This year's L’Oréal-UNESCO For women in Science Awards Ceremony was held on the evening of March 18th at the Sorbonne in Paris. “This evening, we celebrate five exceptional scientists, who are rewriting the story of science, who are inspiring other women to follow their path, to shape how history is made,” announced Irina Bokova, Director General of UNESCO, while opening the ceremony.

The Laureates are Prof. Rajaâ Cherkaoui El Moursli (Morocco), Prof. Yi Xie (China), Prof. Dame Carol Robinson (United Kindgom), Prof. Thaisa Storchi Bergmann (Brazil), and Prof. Molly S. Shoichet (Canada). They are being honored for their ground-breaking discoveries in the physical sciences. By studying the infinitely large to the infinitely small, they have pushed back the frontiers of knowledge to explain the most fundamental questions of the universe and contribute to solving some of today’s greatest challenges. They prove everyday that women can greatly contribute to scientific progress in a field still largely dominated by men.

Only 30% of the world researchers are women and many barriers and obstacles discourage women from entering or pursuing a career in science. And yet, women sometimes make up more than half of students in the sciences at first, but that ratio drops sharply near the PhD level. For this reason, in addition to its annual Awards, the L’Oréal-UNESCO partnership has established the International Rising Talents programme, which is designed to accelerate the advancement of young women in science globally, at the time when they need it most.

The International Rising Talent Grants were awarded to 15 PhD students and post-doctoral Fellows for the first time this year. Chosen from among the winners of the 236 fellowships awarded locally by L’Oréal subsidiaries and UNESCO around the world, these young researchers are indeed the future of science.

Science is the key to a sustainable future. The solutions to current global challenges, including poverty eradication, sustainable economic development, population growth and resource management come from all disciplines and fields of research. No society can afford to leave half of its brainpower on the sidelines. Through the For Women in Science Programme, UNESCO and the L’Oréal Corporate Foundation give unprecedented visibility to extraordinary women in science to counteract the gender bias.

Science itself knows no borders and no discrimination – it is gender-neutral and color-blind. In order to ensure that science serves the interests of all, the scientific community should be as diverse as society itself. The voices of women, who make up one half of humanity, must be heard if research is to remain relevant to all and to solve our most pressing problems.

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