Women in science around the world – Part 3/3

This week DiscovHER publishes the last part of a series of interviews carried out with women in science from around the world. It is the time for scientists from Egypt, Malaysia, South Africa, Spain, and the US to share their views!

Mentors can help fight gender bias

I believe that mentorship is a crucial element in the growth and maturation of any scientist. For women in science, there is an added value, as good mentors are vital in learning the best ways to face up to gender bias. Science and technology have long been dominated by men, since they are stronger not only in numbers but also in maintaining connections and achieving recognition, even if women excel in these fields. Good mentors are key in encouraging women to stay in science in spite of all the challenges in the way!

Egypt: Dr Nourtan Abdeltawab, Assistant Professor, Department of Microbiology and Immunology, Faculty of Pharmacy, Cairo University, Cairo.

Mother vs Scientist

The biggest challenge for women in science is that many women think they may have to leave behind their career after having children. The burden of taking care of family is high for women. They may need to take some time-off to take care of their children, and it is difficult to go back to work after having left science for years. I really wish the system could be more supportive and allow more flexibility for young mothers.

Malaysia: Dr Yoke-Fun Chan, Senior Lecturer, Department of Medical Microbiology, Faculty of Medicine, University Malaya, Kuala Lumpur.

High school teachers’ key role

I think the role of the teacher cannot be underestimated. While I was teaching in development-type programmes, I was often disillusioned by not only the lack of preparation with which many students leave high school, but also the incorrect information. What I rejoiced in later, was how patience and encouragement resulted in those same students asking me questions I didn’t immediately know the answer to just months later in the year. I think governments and education departments need to focus more on teachers. A well-prepared, well-paid teacher is a happy teacher who can share a love for their subject with their students.

South Africa: Adriana Marais, PhD Student, Quantum Research Group, University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban.

Mixed groups’ importance for science

Women contribute to science both scientifically and emotionally. It has been demonstrated that women make groups smarter because they exhibit greater social sensitivity than men. Social sensitivity is a major contributing factor in group intelligence. Therefore, mixed groups are more effective than an all-male or all-female groups!

Spain: Dr Eva Pellicer, Ramon y Cajal Researcher, Physics Department, Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona.

Facing up to the challenges in the way

One of the biggest challenges of being a woman scientist is getting funding and dealing with the job insecurity related to research. A solution to this is working in a highly valued institution, since it helps to establish interesting collaborations. Another challenge for me is to reconcile my work and my wish to have a family one day. I am still dealing with this arduous phase!

USA: Dr Bhama Ramkhelawon, Postdoctoral Fellow, New York University, Langone Medical Center, School of Medicine, New York.

All these scientists are 2015 L’Oréal-UNESCO For Women in Science International Rising Talents.

For Women in Science

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