Panafrican News Agency

UNESCO honours women researchers in science

Paris, France (PANA) - On the International Day for Women and Girls in Science, UNESCO and the L'Oréal Foundation honoured five women researchers in the fields of astrophysics, mathematics, chemistry and informatics as part of the 23rd International Prize for Women in Science. 

To mark the occasion, UNESCO on Thursday published a global study on gender equality in scientific research, entitled ‘To be smart, the digital revolution will need to be inclusive’  showing that although the number of women in scientific research has risen to one in three, women remain a minority in mathematics, computer science, engineering and artificial intelligence.

 Every year, women write as many scientific articles as men, but their chances of appearing in prestigious journals are lower. While women represent 33% of researchers, on average they only occupy 12% of seats on national science academies around the world.

This year’s celebration of the Day addressed the theme “Women Scientists at the forefront of the fight against COVID-19”, and gathered experts working in fields related to the pandemic from different parts of the world.

According to UNESCO, the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic has clearly demonstrated the critical role of women researchers in different stages of the fight against COVID-19, from advancing the knowledge on the virus to developing technics for testing and finally the vaccine against the virus.

At the same time, the COVID-19 pandemic also had a significant negative impact on woman scientists, particularly affecting those at early-career stages, and thus contributing to widening the existing gender gap in science, and revealing the gender disparities in the scientific system, which need to be addressed by new policies, initiatives and mechanisms to support woman and girls in science.

Laureates of the 23rd L’Oréal-UNESCO For Women in Science International Awards include Professor Catherine Ngila – Chemistry. Acting Executive Director of the African Academy of Sciences, Former Deputy Vice Chancellor in charge of Academic and Student Affairs (DVC-AA) at Riara University, Kenya, and Visiting Professor of Applied Chemistry at the University of Johannesburg, South Africa.

She has been recognized for introducing, developing and applying nanotechnology-based analytical methods to monitor water pollutants. Her innovative work is of vital importance for the development of water resource management in an environmentally sustainable way.

Since 1998, the L’Oréal-UNESCO For Women in Science Programmre has worked to support women scientists’ careers and remove the hurdles that stand in their way so that they can play their part in solving the great challenges of our time.

Over 23 years, it has supported more than 3,600 women researchers in 117 countries, rewarding scientific excellence and inspiring younger generations of women to pursue science as a career.

UNESCO has made gender equality one of its priorities. It is the only specialized UN agency with a specific mandate in the sciences. For its part, the Fondation L’Oréal supports women in achieving their potential, taking charge of their lives and contributing positively to society, through a three pronged approach focusing on scientific research, inclusive beauty and climate change.

Besides Professor Catherine Ngila, other laureates for this year are Professor Kyoko Nozaki – Professor of Chemistry at the University of Tokyo, Japan; Professor Shafi Goldwasser – Director of the Simons Institute for the Theory of Computing, Professor in Electrical Engineering and Computer Sciences at University of California Berkeley.

Others are Professor Françoise Combes –  Professor, Chair of Galaxies and Cosmology, Collège de France;  and Professor Alicia Dickensein – Professor of Mathematics at the University of Buenos Aires, Argentina.

-0- PANA AR 11Feb2021