PARIS — The laureates of the 2020, 2021 and 2022 For Women in Science awards were celebrated on Thursday evening in the vast auditorium at UNESCO’s headquarters in Paris.
The L’Oréal Foundation in partnership with UNESCO annually recognizes the achievement of five female scientists from different geographic zones and disciplines. But due to the coronavirus pandemic, it was not possible to hold an in-person event for numerous years.
“Humanity is facing huge challenges,” said Jean-Paul Agon, chairman of L’Oréal. “Science is and will be the key to our common future. Yet, we are deprived of some of the solutions, because some women are discouraged in their scientific careers.
“Contributing to making women scientists visible and supporting them to reduce inequalities in the world of research is the objective of the For Women in Science program,” he continued. “This fight is more decisive than ever.”
Since its inception in 1998, For Women in Science has celebrated and financially supported 122 laureates and more than 3,800 young female scientists from more than 110 countries.
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Agon said battles have been won, but that the scientific world is still not sufficiently inclusive, its inequalities decrease too slowly and the glass ceiling remains.
“This fight for equality goes far beyond the question of gender,” said Agon. “It is part of humanity’s fight to meet the world’s challenges. Each of the exceptional scientists here tonight is changing the lives of millions of people.”
Audrey Azoulay, director-general of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, said: “These laureates in their diversity — disciplinary diversity, geographic diversity — each on a journey of their own, singularly linked to their personal history, speaks the same language: the universal language of science.”
She added they also all embody what has brought UNESCO and L’Oréal together for almost a quarter of a century: the conviction that the world needs science, and that science needs women.
Only one in three scientific researchers today is a woman, and that level drops to 10 percent in the domain of artificial intelligence, for instance.
“Some of us have persisted despite war, economic crisis, deeply entrenched cultural barriers, limited facilities, unequal salaries and funding in our countries,” said Edith Heard, a geneticist, speaking for all the female researchers present. “These challenges have made us fiercer, bolder in our research and stronger in our determination to prevail.”
For the Decoding Cells’ Behaviors category, winners included Heard, hailing from France and the U.K., as well as:
- Hailan Hu, a neuroscientist from China.
- Angela Nieto, an embryologist from Spain.
- Kristi Anseth, a biomedical engineer from the U.S.
- Alicia Dickenstein, a mathematician from Argentina.
Laureates of the Leveraging Technology for a Better Future award were:
- Kyoko Nozaki, a chemist from Japan.
- Shafi Goldwasser, a computer scientist from the U.S.
- Catherine Ngila, a chemist from Kenya.
- Françoise Combes, an astrophysicist from France.
- Esperanza Martínez-Romero, a microbiologist from Mexico.
Winners of the Addressing Public Health Issues prize included:
- Katalin Kariko, a biochemist from the U.S.
- Agnes Binagwaho, a professor of public health and pediatrics, from Rwanda.
- Maria Guzman, a professor of infectious diseases and virology, from Cuba.
- Firdausi Qadri, an immunologist from Bangladesh.
- Abla Mehio Sibai, an epidemiologist from Lebanon.
Also at the event, 30 young women scientists took to the stage, recognized as international rising talents.
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