International Women’s Day, 2022 Women in Science Are they still hidden figures? – Global issues

  • Idea by Heike Kuhn (bonn)
  • Joint press service

To give some background on her career: Born in 1961 in Brazzaville, Republic of the Congo, she was educated in both Brazzaville and Paris. After completing her PhD, she began her career at the Institut Pasteur Paris, then moved as a researcher to Gabon and assumed the position of Scientific Director for the European Development Countries Trial Partnership. Europe in The Hague / The Netherlands (2006/2007 ). Due to her stellar career and knowledge, she has become a member of numerous scientific and advisory bodies, including the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative, WHO, and the Scientific Advisory Committee. Global Health of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

In my home country, Germany, she received the Georg Forster Research Prize in 2015, a highly respected award for scientists. And recently, in January 2022, she was appointed assistant professor of tropical diseases at the University of Tuebingen, where she had worked before. On her Facebook account, she told us that this recent date wants her to spread her knowledge to others.

Impressed with her career, I was drawn to reflect on women in science. Is it a fact that women are less attracted to science and what are the obstacles once a career has started? Let’s take a closer look at what happens after the birth of a girl: She finds her surroundings supportive or not – family, daycare, school, higher education. A smart girl will learn and compete, undaunted by people who might look down on her just because she’s a girl. But there are signals, words, sometimes threats, that tell her that smarter toys or jobs are not for her, but for boys. Supposedly, she doesn’t falter and isn’t impressed by these actions and will instead succeed, climbing the steps of her academic path and earning a stellar degree, followed by a Ph.

As she becomes a young adult, there is another important choice to make: continue her research activities or form a family, which is often more of a burden than her partner. . Taking charge of an infant or toddler is a most enriching and, nevertheless, time-consuming experience. Depending on your partner’s availability, you either manage your spare time for your (scientific) obligations – or you simply don’t. Some young women even refuse to get married – a choice that a man in our culture is not obligated to make. There may be female role models to encourage her to find her way.

In my view, Professor Francine Ntoumi describes one such role model, inspiring others: On 11 February 2022, International Day of Women and Girls in Science, she campaigned for the day, calling it a reminder to work and encouraging young girls to commit to scientific work to fulfill their aspirations. She’s calling out to them, because “nobody’s going to do it for us” (all can be seen on her Facebook account). Everything is seen and understood: Science is hard work, her career a long and enduring endeavor, but she has climbed this ladder in one direction – always upwards.

And yet – despite her 40-year experience, as a member of many scientific bodies, she has openly pointed out the fact that she is often seen as a UFO because African women in science are often underreported. presented (see an interview with Ntoumi on Agence d’Information d’Afrique Centrale March 2, 2014). What a comparison! Reading this far, I am reminded of the famous American biographical film “Hidden Figures” (2016), which tells the story of African-American female mathematicians who assisted the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). NASA) with their extraordinary analytical skills. The exclusion of these women from relevant high-level meetings and their removal from reports soon ended as their male supervisors understood their unique ability to ensure the success of the projects. spaceflight and the country’s reputation.

As I reflect on these remarkable achievements by women in science, I firmly believe that we should recognize the contributions girls and women make to building a more sustainable world for all of us. ta. Since wisdom has no gender, we will need ideas and concepts from experts all over the world. And there are female professionals, everywhere. Let us empower them and listen to them. Today.

Dr. Heike Kuhn is Head of the Department, Education, Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development, Germany

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© Inter Press Service (2022) – All rights reservedOrigin: Inter Press Service

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