Women in Science: Men Have a Role to Play, Too!

Women continue to be underrepresented in many fields of scientific research. Undeterred by this persistent disparity, women scientists have begun to take steps to redress the balance. As the first to suffer the consequences of the situation, they are often on the front line in the fight against inequality. But do you really have to be a woman to take up the cause of gender equality in the world of scientific research? Clearly not. In honour of International Men’s Day, DiscovHER is pleased to share the stories of some exemplary male role models.

Men – just like women – have an important role to play in encouraging women to pursue careers in science.

Curt Rice

This American living in Norway is a professor at the University of Tromsø, the director of Norway’s Committee on Gender Balance and Diversity in Research and chair of the Current Research Information System in Norway (CRIStin). Rice has been raising awareness about the importance of taking gender into account in scientific research in order to produce more comprehensive studies and results that keep both sexes in mind from the outset. He also campaigns for gender equality among scientists, encouraging women to take positions at all levels in the scientific and research fields.

As part of this cause, Curt Rice also contributes to numerous international scientific gender equality initiatives. Most notably, he is a member of the Advisory Council for the European Effective Gender Equality in Research and Academia (EGERA) project; the Scientific Expert Panel for the genSET project, which advises the European Commission on questions related to gender in science and research; and the Gender Summits steering committee.

Rice’s book is available for free here!

David C. Page

David C. Page is a professor of biology at the prestigious Massachusetts Institute of Technology and currently serves as the director of the Whitehead Institute, which focuses on molecular biology and genetics. As a specialist on genetic differences between men and women and the evolution of X and Y chromosomes, Page became interested in gender equality through his work. Indeed, he realized that in scientific studies, particularly in the medical fields, not taking sex into account jeopardizes the reliability of results.

Bill Gates

Bill Gates is widely known for the Windows operating system, but few people know about his commitment to gender equality and his continued emphasis on the pivotal role women can play in the economy. During a conference in Saudi Arabia, before a largely male audience, he argued that the country would have a difficult time reaching its full potential if it continued to exclude half of its available population from the economy. In the field of scientific research, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation only supports agricultural development programmes that include women.

Pierre Curie

Behind every successful woman there is a man. Marie Curie was the first woman to receive a Nobel Prize in Physics, but her achievement wouldn’t have been possible if Pierre Curie hadn’t been the first man to support a high-profile female scientist widely recognized by her peers. In addition to sharing the Prize with Marie (and Henri Becquerel) for their research on radiation, Pierre Curie also quickly realized the potential behind his wife’s studies of radioactivity and gave up his own work on piezoelectricity as of 1898 to work with her. This incredibly rewarding joint effort earned them both the honour of being interred in the Pantheon in 1995.

The spouses of distinguished women scientists

In interviews, the L’Oréal-UNESCO For Women in Science Fellows often emphasize the role their spouses – sometimes scientists themselves – have played in their careers. Fellows like Professor Jeong Sun-Joo and Francisca Okeke have reiterated how their husbands were invaluable partners for them at home – helping them reconcile the demands of career and family – and in their work, by supporting and encouraging them. As CNRS researcher Jacqueline Belloni-Cofler explains: “I was lucky to have the unfailing support of my husband, particularly when my career was just starting to take off. He helped me balance my life as a researcher and my role as a mother to young children.”

There is plenty of room for both men and women in the scientific fields. Thankfully, many people have realized this and are already working together to produce better scientific studies for the benefit of all.

Can you think of other advocates for the cause of women in science? Share their stories on Twitter @4womeninscience, with the #womeninscience and #DiscovHer hashtags. 

For Women in Science

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