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ICTP at Women in Science Week

UNESCO events honor star scientists

ICTP at Women in Science Week
ICTP at Women in Science Week

11/04/2017 - Trieste

ICTP was recently invited to participate in the For Women in Science International Week at UNESCO headquarters, celebrating the 2017 winners of the UNESCO-L'Oreal Women in Science Prize. A week of events surrounded the prize-giving, which hosted both the five For Women in Science (FWIS) prize winners and 15 Rising Talents, young female scientists who have already begun to make a mark in their fields.  ICTP climatologist and coordinator for the Centre’s women in physics initiatives Erika Coppola presented ICTP's programs and mission to these eminent scientists from all over the world, many of whom had not heard of ICTP.

Hosted in Paris, the event aimed to introduce all of the scientists to some of the gender-related initiatives and programs that are part of UNESCO. The panel discussion included Coppola and OWSD, the Organization for Women in Science in the Developing World, headquartered at ICTP's partner organization, TWAS. Other presentations covered the SAGA program (the STEM and Gender Advancement), the Women Make the News initiative, and work from the UNESCO Section of Education for Inclusion and Gender Equality. The panel presentations covered both general measures and studies, focusing on policy and statistics, as well as the more immediately usable programs that the Rising Talents could potentially participate in at OWSD and ICTP. 

Coppola's presentation covered both the basics of ICTP—the mission as a institution run by scientists for scientists, devoted to both science and scientific capacity building in the developing world—and its efforts to bridge the gender equality and opportunity gap in science, especially in physics and math. Some 21% of the 14,277 visitors to ICTP since 2002 were women, half of whom came from developing countries. That percentage is typical of many physics departments around the world, unfortunately, which is why it is encouraging that the percentage of female scientists visiting in 2015 rose to 24%. 

But ICTP wants to see that number grow, both within its own programs and internationally. To that end, the Centre hosts a bi-annual Career Development Workshop for Women in Physics, which provides mentorship, networking and inspiration to young scientists. Coppola helps organize the Workshops, and was encouraged by the attention and inquiries from attendees of the UNESCO event. Several scientists asked about ICTP's various programs, and asked for more statistics and information about ICTP's work. The next edition of the Career Development Workshop will take place in October 2017, and will feature Nicola Spauldin, one of the 2017 winners of the UNESCO-L'Oreal Women in Science Prize, who has also agreed to generously use some of her prize money to sponsor the attendance of more young scientists to the workshop.

There are many reasons why only 28% of researchers worldwide are women, from cultural expectations of divisions of labor and childrearing, to both overt and subtle prejudice, to a lack of educational resources, support and role models. The Paris sessions in March will hopefully strengthen both institutional networking and awareness of separate efforts, and help the Prize winners and Rising Talents spread the word about opportunities at places like ICTP.


---- Kelsey Calhoun