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The future of science lays in gender equality

L’Oréal e UNESCO award 6 under 35 female researchers with "Women in science"

The future of science lays in gender equality  L’Oréal e UNESCO award 6 under 35 female researchers with Women in science

The idea that women are not suited to scientific disciplines is a cultural stereotype ingrained in society that creates a barrier - the so-called glass ceiling - that is often all too visible in academic circles: only 14% of high-level academic positions in Europe are held by women and, over the last decade, only 8% of Nobel prizes for science have been awarded to women (UNESCO Science Report 2021). This is why L'Oréal and UNESCO have been committed for 24 years to the "For Women in Science" project, the first international prize dedicated to women working in science, this year in its 20th edition. In the setting of the Leonardo da Vinci National Museum of Science and Technology, six scholarships - worth 20,000 euros each - were awarded to six female researchers under 35, Chiara Borsari, Marisa Brienza, Martina Cecchetti, Agnese Chiatti, Vittoria Laghi and Sara Moccia on the basis of the excellence recognised in their projects in the fields of life sciences and matter (STEM). This year's call for applications attracted 250 applications from all over Italy, demonstrating that the number of female researchers pursuing scientific careers is increasing slightly, only one in three is a woman globally. L' L'Oréal Italia President and CEO François-Xavier Fenart commented on this gender discrepancy:

"There is still a long way to go to close the gender gap, even in scientific research. Many steps forward have been taken in recent years, which encourage us to continue our project for women and science with renewed commitment'.

To clear the field of women's science of stigma and prejudice requires commitment and investment such as that made by L'Oréal, but also an effort from the scientific community and recognition for merit from the academic committees of humanity behind the scientist and researcher.

One of the hashtags of the event was #stopthedropout, to represent the need to disincentivise women from leaving scientific careers due to the unconscious bias on women's cognitive abilities that has been ingrained in common belief for too long, as Lucia Votano, Research Director Emeritus National Institute of Nuclear Physics pointed out, associating herself with the message of the Minister for Equal Opportunities and Family Elena Bonetti,

"Women and men are equally called upon to contribute to scientific progress and to building the future of humanity. The contribution of women, who can do and give a lot in mathematics as well as in the sciences, is still not as relevant as it could be: it is an enormous opportunity that we are not taking advantage of and that initiatives such as L'Orèal and Unesco are helping to seize".

Since 1998, 3,900 women researchers have been awarded the 'For Women in Science' prize, a springboard that ensures that the winners can continue to work on their research projects, forge professional ties and acquire a position of relevance on the international stage, so much so that with commitment and dedication they can go on to win the Nobel Prize, like five of the winners of the prize in previous years, among them Emmanuelle Charpentier and Jennifer Doudna, Nobel Prize winner for Chemistry in 2020.

@marilucasini Ne parliamo stasera ore 7PM con una live assieme a @torcha! Vi aspetto lì #imparacontiktok #scienza She Share Story (for Vlog) -
@marilucasini La scienza è per tutt@, anche per le donne! È giusto ricordarlo perché le donne sono rappresentante solo per il 30% nella ricerca #imparacontiktok original sound - edits
@marilucasini Basta stereotipi e pregiudizi nella scienza. Come siamo fuori non determina la nostra serietà. #science #lab #medicina #hairstyles #lgbt #stereotype everyone using this sound - zup
@marilucasini IL GENDER GAP NELLA SCIENZA #scienza #medicina #ricerca #greenscreen #gender #feminism Aesthetic - Xilo

Scientist and entrepreneur Silvia Scaglione and PhD student and populariser Marilù Casini, strong on TikTok, also spoke during the prize-giving morning to emphasise the different facets of the scientific world and its ramifications in which it is possible to express one's personal and social vocation for science, as well as the difficulties encountered along the way.

The testimonies of the winners of past editions of the award, of all the personalities who spoke and of the members of the selection committee identify a desire on the part of the scientific world to create space and promote female talent in a scientific scenario where even error is an added value and STEM becomes a symbol of female empowerment, starting with school education.