Monday, April 13, 2009

2009 L’OREAL-UNESCO Women in Science Awards

With all the current anger at certain corporations it is easy to loose sight that many corporations do honor and support diverse communities. Corporations have and continue to support their communities.  The 2009 L’Oreal-UNESCO Women In Science Awards presented five scientists with $100,000 each in recognition of their work.

This is a joint award between the L’Oreal Corporate Foundation and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). The focus of the awards this year looked at scientists that work in the Physical Sciences.

The current awardees are selected from their specific geographical regions; for 2009 they are:

  • Africa & the Arab State: Tebello Nyokong for her work on harnessing light for cancer therapy
  • Asia-Pacific: Akiko Kobayashi for her work on developing molecular conductors
  • North America: Eugenia Kumacheva, for her work on designing and developing new materials with diverse applications
  • Europe: Athene M. Donald: for her work on studying the physics of messy materials
  • Latin America: Beatriz Barbuy on her work on the life of stars and the birth of the universe to the present time

2009 L’OREAL-UNESCO Women in Science AwardsAt the L’Oreal-UNESCO Women In Science website you can view short video documentaries of each of the award winners as they talk about their work and their life. You can also view past winners and get an inspirational dose of real women of science doing remarkable work.

Being able to see these women talk about their careers gives me a glimpse into a different world. It helps to expand my vision of what women are doing. It is no longer an abstract concept that a woman can be scientist. 

Now if we could just get the New York Times to stop covering female non-fashion achievements in the Style page and put it in the News section we’d have a sign that we are indeed moving forward in thought. In any case, these scientists are the path finders that make it a little easier for those that come after them.

I think it helps to defeat the illusion that being a woman working in science means giving up on other aspects of your life.  I suspect that has only been true in a very few cases. DrDrA at Blue Lab Coats schedule left me exhausted and amazed, here is an excerpt on her post on juggling:

I’m up at 6:15- and some mornings I roll directly out of bed into my gym clothes. I wake up the kids, scarf down a banana, and I am out the door by 6:45 to go to the gym.  During my hour of cardio I’m reading something- like perhaps that prelim, or a manuscript draft that I’ve been working on.  I make it to work by 8:30 or so for a day of endless interruptions. DrMrA wrangles the kids- breakfast, lunches, backpacks…. and making sure everyone is appropriately dressed (not so easy with my girls who seem to want to wear shorts and t-shirts even when it is 40 degrees outside)- and getting one to the bus stop on time at 7:25, and the other to school at 7:30- then he heads off to work.

Well, with the help of Candid Engineer hosting the April 2009 Scientia Blog Carnival we can get a pulse on what is happening with Science Bloggers.

Paths have been cleared but it is still a rocky road. Many of the same challenges that some of the awardees faced early in their careers are still present.  JaneB at Now What Was I Doing? writes about how the challenges can come from within instead of external forces:

Many of my challenges are about me rather than external career challenges - the driver for the starting of this blog was my experiences with part-time working as a result of stress-related health problems, which are all about me and my limits (and a little about the problems of being a conscientious academic in a university system that exploits such people to the max - which actually, is not a problem unique to the university). I'm an insecure, grumpy, imposter-syndrome-riddled person, and am still wrestling with demons around the boring stuff of being a brainy woman, a single brainy woman, in a field which is less male-dominated than many sciences but is still predominantly male, and designed to reward certain kinds of predominantly male behaviour, such as Showing Off and being Aggressively Competitive.

Not to say that external forces can’t get on your last nerve, Eppendork writes about reclaiming her love of science that wasn’t met with support:

…when I said I wanted to do science, my then partner basically laughed and fully expected me to fall flat on my face and go back to doing what I did before within a year of starting my undergrad.  It felt good to show him the straight A's I got in my first year - I didnt give up I worked two part time jobs and was a full time student and a mother.  It wasnt easy and I have to say the first year of my MSc was the most stressful year I have ever experienced in my whole life - I wouldve lost the plot completely had it not been for a very good friend of mine who I love dearly.  Needless to say my relationship with my ex didnt last, but my relationship with science is still going strong.

It is not that some of us haven’t experienced a form of these situations but that there is recognition from seeing women in the sciences that they are handing career and life demands. I guess the lesson for the day is believe in yourself and move forward.

Gena Haskett is a Contributing Editor at BlogHer where this post originally appeared.

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