International Day of Women and Girls in Science: From Covid to Cancer.
TODAY (February 11), is a special day in which the world recognises and says thank you to all the brilliant women and girls who are working and studying in the world of science.
From the teams dedicated to researching and protecting the world from the Covid pandemic to those who are finding cures and helping bring the fight to cancer.
According to the United Nation’s Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), the Covid-19 crisis has demonstrated, once again, the critical role of women and girls in science. Women researchers have led many crucial breakthroughs in the fight against the pandemic – from understanding the virus and controlling its spread, to developing diagnostic tests and vaccines.
At the same time, there is growing evidence that the pandemic has hit women – and women scientists – harder than men, for example as a result of the unbalanced distribution of unpaid care and domestic tasks.
UNESCO’s forthcoming Science Report shows that only 33 per cent of researchers are women, despite the fact that they represent 45 and 55 per cent of students at the Bachelor’s and Master’s levels of study respectively, and 44 per cent of those enrolled in PhD programmes.
These stats also show that girls are significantly under-represented in STEM subjects in many settings. On International Day of Women and Girls in Science, Cancer Research highlighted a story from some of their PhD students about what inspired them to pursue a career in cancer research.
“My interest in population health drove me to pursue a career in STEM. Conducting research that adds to the evidence needed to support cancer control strategies has been a great driving force and has provided a sense of purpose and fulfilment,” said Rhea Harewood, one of Cancer Research’s PhD students based at Imperial College London.
Rhea, who is researching risk factors linked to bowel cancer, to help inform prevention continued: “Bowel cancer is one of the most common causes of cancer deaths in the UK, and in my home country of Barbados. Despite the successes of screening programmes, they are less effective at reducing the incidence of cancers at the beginning of the colon. My PhD aims to close this gap by identifying factors that may complement these programmes, and lifestyle risk factors that can inform prevention strategies.”
Women scientists are a source of inspiration for young girls around the world eager to enter scientific fields. Today, as the world celebrates International Day of Women and Girls in Science, UNESCO state “it is our duty to pave the way for them, to build a fairer and more equal future.”
In the words of Jennifer Doudna, laureate of the 2020 Nobel Prize in Chemistry, “I love the process of discovery.” For all girls contemplating a career in science, it should be as simple as that.
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