The L’Oréal Foundation has launched a new campaign Change The Numbers, to challenge public perceptions of women in science.
L’Oréal, which collaborates with UNESCO and the UKNC through the For Women in Science Programme, recently published the results of a survey that explored around 5,000 Europeans adults’ perceptions of women in science.
The results show that 67% of Europeans (64% of UK-adults) think women do not possess the required skill set to achieve high-level scientific positions.
Professor Dame Athene Donald, who was named European Laureate in the 2009 L’Oréal UNESCO For Women In Science Awards, wrote in The Guardian about the campaign:
“With this level of incredulity about women being capable of doing science, we shouldn’t be astonished that the speed of women rising to the top of the profession is as glacially slow as it is. It also suggests that we shouldn’t be surprised when teachers (and indeed parents) don’t encourage girls to stick with science post-16”.
The lack of encouragement women and girls receive is reflected in the numbers, with 89% of the survey’s respondents said that women are suitable for ‘anything but science’.
Dame Donald who is Professor of experimental physics at the University of Cambridge, continues to write:
“Any female scientist […] will definitely be surrounded by a crowd of people who do not believe she is likely to succeed. The drip-drip-drip of negativity is liable to sap self-confidence and aspiration. Only when gender becomes irrelevant to how people view the person at the bench will equality in the lab even start to be a reality.”
L’Oréal’s attempt to improve public perceptions of women in science with the latest campaign is part of their wider contribution to encourage more girls and young women to enter and continue in the profession.
As many as 44% of the survey’s female respondents said that they believed that there is a lack of support and management provided for women in sciences which is precisely the area that the L’Oréal-UNESCO for Women in Science Programme seeks to address.
This year, the L’Oréal-UNESCO for Women in Science UK & Ireland Fellowships recognised Dr Paola Crippa, Dr Joanne Durgan, Dr Aarti Jagannath, Dr Rita Tojeiro, and Dr Triona Ni Chonghaile for their exceptional scientific achievement, awarding each of them a £15,000 Fellowship to help further their research as well as media training in order to help them communicate their science to non-expert audiences.
Applications for the 2016 UK&I Fellowships will open 1 February 2016.