To realize your full potential, you need to follow your passion and persevere.
February 9, 2023. It was the third edition of Potenti’Elle en Science, an event initiated by the Healthcare Businesswomen’s Association (HBA) to celebrate the International Day of Women and Girls in Science. More than 220 attendes joined this first in-person edition, to a great success! The audience was invited to listen to a panel of selected STEM leaders. At RADAR, we fervently promote diversity by giving voice to scientists of all ages, women as well as members of the LGBTQ+ community. It was such a pleasure to take part in this event! Please find below a report of the keynote speeches delivered during Potenti’Elle en Science.
Katrina Edmunds, Academic Counselor and DEI coordinator at the International School of Lausanne (ISL), hosted the event called “Pursuing your STEM passion” to enable young people to meet inspiring role models. “Women are underrepresented in the most important fields”, says Divya, ISL high school president. But science needs the voices of women and girls, keep reading this article to learn why their engagement is so critical.
STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering and Math. Alas, a gender gap persists in those fields all over the world. Only one in five STEM professionals in the world is a woman.
“A supportive community is very important. You need to establish network and meet new people to help grow your career. Tonight is all about helping kids to learn more about STEM and be inspired by female STEM leaders.”, says Isabelle Jeangoudoux, president of the HBA Suisse Romande chapter, in the French-speaking part of Switzerland and a global marketing manager.
The Healthcare Businesswomen’s Association is a global nonprofit organization comprised of individuals and organizations in healthcare committed to:
- achieving gender parity in leadership positions
- providing equitable practices that enable organizations to realize the full potential of women
- facilitating career and business connections to accelerate advancement
The HBA accomplishes its mission through strong business networks, education, research, advocacy, and recognition of individuals and companies.
Expand your horizons
“I’ve always loved chemistry and was very good at it. At your age, I wanted to take part in a chemistry competition.”, tells Andrea Delannoy, founder of MOD-ELLE, to her young audience.
“At that time, a male teacher told me: “I think the boys have a better chance to win that competition.”
“I begged him to let me train with the boys and go to the selections. I insisted and he let me participate.”
Guess what? She went to the chemistry Olympiad in Romania and got the 2nd prize!
What is more: The first prize was given to another girl.
Unfortunately, the words were said and the impression that “science was not for her” lodged itself in her consciousness. Thus, she studied finance and politics. Although, she stayed a scientist at heart. “Everything I do is empirical,” she says. She does not regret choosing finance and politics, but she always stuck very close with science.
To expand the horizons of girls, Andrea created MOD-ELLE, an association that works with primary schools. She calls women from diverse fields over into school so they talk about their jobs, their careers, their feelings, and passions. Marian Wright Edelman, said that herself: “you can’t be what you can’t see.” Andrea continues: “Nobody knows what the jobs of tomorrow will look like. They don’t exist yet. The only thing that humans have individually is [their] passion. When you do something that you like and love, you find the motivation to keep on going. Find what you feel inside, the motivation that keeps you going.”
About raising young girls’ aspirations
“If she can see it she can be it” says Ruth Garcia Calle, Chemical Engineer at Climeworks. She dedicates her free time to Inspiring Girls International, an organization dedicated to supporting career aspirations of younger women around the world. It does so by linking them up with female role models from all walks of life, who act as mentors – following this motto: “if they can see it, they can be it”.
Floor to the United Nations
Stephania Bonilla-Feret, an economist at the United Nations, explains why the UN is celebrating the International Day of Women and Girls in Science.
“Complex challenges need to find solutions, she says. Solutions need a lot of different people and their talent, different types of jobs.” That implies a lot of ideas and different points of view. And women, they represent 50% of the population after all!
Why does one need science? To solve the 17 sustainable development goals (SDGs), one needs to grasp what’s wrong The best way to solve issues is to first address them. We think that the representation of professionals among science should be as diverse as the population is, since it impacts our everyday life in multiple ways—among which:
These women no one considers
About fastening seatbelts: Crash tests are based on the height and weight of the average man. As a result: women have 70% more likely to die or get seriously injured in a car accident. At the time of the design of seatbelts, they probably were not so many women in the team of engineers.
Legend : ‘Serious injuries at work are increasing among women.’ Model: Nina Trickey. Hair and makeup: Vale Von Der Wehl using Laura Mercier and Kerastase. Assistant: Bruce Horak. Dummies: courtesy of Cellbond. Photograph: Kellie French/The Guardian
Heart attack – men and women experience different symptoms
When one thinks about a person having a heart attack, one imagines a person holding their hands on their heart – a symptom typical of men.
Women can have different symptoms. Potentially, they can feel anxious, their back can hurt, etc.
The risk may be that they may be misdiagnosed. A study run in Canton of Vaud led to the conclusion that when men go to see doctors regarding cardiovascular issues, men are most likely sent to cardiologists, while women are sent back home for anxiety attacks.
The world needs scientists to identify and address problems – what’s more for women and girls too.
In other respects: Women in science are tackling this in that vicinity to resolve it. For instance, women who have a heart attack have a higher mortality rate than men. Stereotypes tend to delay diagnosis. Carole Clair’s research at UNIL focuses on the theme of gender in medicine, particularly in the areas of prevention, cardiovascular disease, and primary care medicine.
Want to find out more? Watch Dr Clair and Dr Schwarz address the issue. <iframe width=”560″ height=”315″ src=”https://www.youtube.com/embed/MR4IXLGBcjM” title=”YouTube video player” frameborder=”0″ allow=”accelerometer; autoplay; clipboard-write; encrypted-media; gyroscope; picture-in-picture; web-share” allowfullscreen></iframe>
An anecdote of role-modelling in sport: A positive virtuous circle
Stephania Bonilla-Feret’s sister has been working in an international school for several years. Not too many girls wanted to join the football team at that school, and 7 players were the minimum to create a football team. She asked the board if she could try something out. She went from classroom to classroom and distributed flyers while asserting that soccer is super fun for girls too. Guess what? Over 40 girls came for registration. Stephania’s sister became a coach and the school had to hire an assistant coach as well! Girls had never seen a woman coach before. Again: You can’t be what you can’t see.
Be curious, ask question, bother adults who can answer
The 17 social development goals are also very important to Archana Sharma, Head Engagement Office CMS Experiment, Principal Scientist CERN and author of India’s Science Geniuses. “There are so many opportunities for girls and boys to make a difference.” Science is everywhere.
Heard about Einstein? Newton? What about Marie Curie, Shirley Jackson, Mary Somerville, Ada Lovelace, Dorothy Hodgkin, Jocelyn Bell Burnell, Mileva Marić, Alice Ball, and so many more women in science? We do not know them. We get confused.
Archana Sharma was lucky enough to have fantastic teachers. She truly believes that adults are responsible for igniting children’s spark of interest in science. “A little nudge can change the way, the path of an individual. It’s exponential and can have such an impact.”
But, back in India, Archana’s teachers helped her along, so much so that she eventually went on to study physics. Once at the CERN, she had to study nuclear physics voraciously, as she had never heard of it previously. Now, she makes a difference. She leads at least three very big projects. And more than 300 people work with her.
Everything is in need of science
You need to find clues to beat COVID-19? You need specialized microscope based on quantum physics.
You broke your leg? You go to the hospital for an Xray, invented by scientists.
Doctors, physicists, chemists, etc, young people shall engage in science.
Know the World Wide Web? It stems from the CERN! Online meetings? These exist because of the web.
The A-to-Z of CERN – a book for your bedside table – and a call for the next one.
Two young people that were supposed to be trained at CERN during COVID helped Dr Sharma to write the book. She plans to write another book on the same matter but with little girls. There’s a lot to do. It will make a huge difference and have a huge impact to SDGs.
Who has heard of entrepreneurship?
“At the time I was at high school – I did not know any women entrepreneur.”, said Siew-Veena Sahi, CEO & Co-Founder of Testmate Health. She graduated in 2010 at another international school, the international school of Geneva. She always knew she loved science. When you look at an entrepreneur’s journey, it often starts with the spark of a teacher. In general at school, people think about traditional jobs, lawyers, engineers, doctors, … But many more jobs are related to science.
Pursue what you are interested in!
After six years in med school, Siew-Veenna Sahi realized that medicine was not what she wanted to do. However, she had a strong interest in women’s health. And what about doing an extra degree in Public Health? Within science, there are so many subfields. “Speak to your parents, your parents’ friends, get curious.”, she says.
“Much of it is also a matter of luck », she continues. In her case, the luck of meeting an incredible teacher.
Her mission at Testmate Health involves putting everyone in charge of their own sexual health by making accurate testing easy and accessible, no matter who they are, or where they are. The company’s aim is to work in partnership with healthcare providers, to help minimize appointments and save people precious time. They believe slow access to tests equals slow access to health – and that means things need to change.
“There is an amazingly high concentration of Medtech, Biotech, Pharmaceuticals and science in Switzerland. Just go for it. There are unconscious biases that impact you as a woman. Most clinical trials carried out to test drugs exclude women. As an entrepreneur, I am often in the minority as a woman. Whether pitching my business or trying to get funding, I am addressing room’s full of men. It is a journey where people will say no to you. But think yes. And keep going.,” she concludes.
1-2-3-4-5: Do the math—it’s as easy as 1, 2, 3
Maryna Viazovska, mathematician, Professor at EPFL, Fields Medal winner: “For me, the true magic that exists in this world is science. Math is the simplest thing.” Nonetheless, for her not having enough girls studying math as of today is very sad. Because in the first place, those girls and women take a great deal of joy in doing math. Thus, science and society lose these talents.
Maryna Viazovska learned how to read, write, and count at school. She liked counting and disliked everything else. Although quite strict, her math teacher also happened to be excellent and encouraging. At an early age, Maryna was introduced to math competitions, which she enjoyed a lot. After middle school, she went to a school specialized in science studies in which there were 7 girls out of 30 students, which was, according to her, regrettable.
“Influence of parents is super important. Math is very creative and does not know gender. You can do something great, as complex as no one thought about it before”, she concludes.
- HBA – https://www.hbanet.org
- MOD-ELLE – https://www.mod-elle.ch
- Inspiring girls – https://inspiring-girls.com
- Artemia – https://www.artemia-executive.com. The first Executive Search service in Switzerland with a specific expertise on gender and diversity issues.
Enjoy the full event found in this video :