View Full Version : For Women In Science

03-18-2006, 09:58 AM
L'Oreal-UNESCO awards honorees hope to raise the voice of the female scientific community an octave.

by Kevin Friedl • Posted March 8, 2006 12:10 PM

2006 L'ORÉAL-UNESCO Awards Laureates (left to right): Esther Orozco (Mexico, Laureate Latin America), Pamela Bjorkman (USA, Laureate North America), Jennifer Graves (Australia, Laureate Asia/Pacific), Habiba Bouhamed Chaabouni (Tunisia, Laureate Africa), Christine Van Broeckhoven (Belgium, Laureate Europe). Credit: GAMMA
In January of last year, Harvard president Larry Summers notoriously pondered aloud whether "intrinsic aptitude" might be the reason that women are poorly represented in the highest levels of scientific research. Twice since that fateful speech an annual event has made it clear that, whatever their innate abilities, there's no shortage of talented women with more aptitude for science than the hapless, now-deposed president has for administration.

Last week, as Summers began his preparations to hand over the reigns of one of the country's most prestigious academic institutions, women from around the world traveled to Paris to receive prestigious honors sponsored jointly by L'Oréal-UNESCO for their contributions to science. Five accomplished female biologists from five continents accepted the $100,000 Award For Women In Science, sometimes referred to as the Nobel Prize of women in science.

"Many laureates of the L'Oréal-UNESCO Award For Women in Science could be candidates for the Nobel Prize but on the selection committees, note that men predominate," said Christian de Duve, Nobel Prize-winning biologist and founding president of the awards, in a press statement.

Women have won only 12 Nobel Prizes in the sciences in over 100 years, and on average receive less attention than their male counterparts, if only because men still dominate the field of research. The L'Oréal-UNESCO laureate program is intended not only to honor the accomplishments of top female scientists but also to hold them up as an example for a younger generation of women who may be hesitant to pursue a career in science.

"The award plays an important role in creating visibility for senior women to serve as role models for young women," says Pamela Bjorkman, this year's North American laureate, honored for her research at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and Caltech on how the immune system recognizes pathogens. "It can be discouraging for a young person today who's trying to enter science if she doesn't see anyone who looks like her doing science."


03-18-2006, 10:33 AM
The function of female role models in science is not appreciated enough.