Valuing the presence of young female scientists in research

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), it is estimated that 35.6 million people in the world suffer from dementia. Alzheimer’s disease is involved in 60-70% of cases. Since women are now living longer, they are more susceptible to contracting it at some stage. To find out more, DiscovHER interviewed Dr Lilia Lazli, an Algerian scientist whose research relates to diagnosing Alzheimer’s disease in the biomedical sector.

What do you think about the numbers of women represented in scientific research? 

Still in very small numbers today, women pursuing careers in scientific research are often in the shadows of their laboratories, hiding in a world that is still very much masculine. Only around 15 Nobel prizes have been awarded to women out of more than 500 recipients since 1901! Apart from Marie Curie and Julie Payette, is it possible to name other famous women in science?

Solving the current and future issues in sustainable development depends on mobilising all human resources in the scientific domain. Science cannot continue to be deprived of the scientific potential of half of the world’s population: to access knowledge and create gender equality, women must participate in science.

However, today women author less than 30% of scientific articles. These tenacious women sometimes have to put aside certain aspects of their personalities in order to conform to stereotypes, or put in double the effort to receive the same recognition as their male counterparts. Discrimination against women in the sciences is unfortunately still present, although it is sometimes subconscious, which makes it difficult to condemn.

We must ensure that these passionate women have the opportunity to progress from being valued colleagues to women leaders, committed and integrated, with their female identity and their own values, so that they become inspiring role-models for students looking for careers in these promising fields. Real equality with their male colleagues and enviable visibility, with all the merit and recognition that they deserve, should be rightfully theirs.

How do you think we can encourage women to follow a career in the sciences? 

Scientific research should be designed and perceived as a central element of economic and political science to meet current and future challenges, in everyone’s interests. The sociocultural environment seems to be implicated in this issue, despite all the efforts made by certain bodies and organisations to recognise and appreciate the real value of women. The organisations who work for the promotion of cultural diversity and support higher education, training and research should be recognised for their efforts.

Why did you choose the biomedical sector as your research area?

When looking for new scientific challenges, the biomedical sector was close to my heart and the contribution I could make seemed necessary. I have loved dedicating myself to this vast area, especially because of the human element, in order to provide help and support to doctors when diagnosing Alzheimer’s disease, which is difficult to diagnose today.

My financial situation didn’t allow me to cope with the expenses of such a project. The grant that I received gave me the opportunity to give my maximum concentration and focus to my research under the best conditions. And it helped me to pursue and attain my scientific and human objectives. 

What message would you give to young female researchers?

The grant that I received inspired me to help other young researchers; I hope that one day I will be in a position to support female students in order to enable them to reach their objectives, as I have been lucky enough to do.

A final thought to future Laureates: hard work always pays; the harder you work, the luckier you’ll be! 

Dr Lilia Lazli received a grant from the Maghreb regional L’Oréal-UNESCO For Women in Science program.

For Women in Science

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