Getting invited to witness L’Oreal and UNESCO award this year’s For Women in Science (FWIS) National Fellow, we can’t help but think of inspiring stories like mathematician Dorothy Vaughan’s in the movie Hidden Figures or the challenges faced by women in NASA in plays like Silent Sky as we listened to speakers at the Century City Mall last Tuesday (June 5, 2018). Standing in front of professionals, students, and the media, distinguished guests gave everyone a feel of what’s it like to work in a field that is being dominated by men and what foundations are doing to further empower women and encourage young scientists to pursue their dreams. Truly, these stories are as real as movies may portray.
Truth be told, women account for only 30% of the world’s researchers, and with even lower percentages at higher decision-making levels. In response, L’Oréal and UNESCO founded the FWIS program in 1998 with the mission to empower more women in the field of sciences by increasing the number of women in scientific research, promoting more young women to enter the profession, and to assist them once their careers are in progress. Since its launch, the program has supported more than 3,100 women scientists from 117 countries and celebrated 102 renowned scientists at the peak of their careers including three who have won a Nobel Prize. The Philippines has had the privilege of seeing Dr. Lourdes Cruz win as a Global Laureate (2010) for her work with snail toxins and has had four Filipina scientists awarded as National Fellows (2011 and 2012).
WOMEN WHO WOW
This year, we are honored to be part of the country’s new milestone. We share Dr. Charissa Ferrera’s success as the FWIS Philippines National Fellow 2018 with her study in chemical oceanography. With a relevant and timely research on the water quality in coastal areas and fishing localities particularly Bolinao and Anda, Dr. Ferrera pushes for sustainable mariculture by advocating to help communities recover from effects of pollution through effective science communication.
“I see my win as an opportunity to create a ripple effect that will allow for more individuals to be inspired to pursue careers in science,” shares Dr. Ferrera on winning the fellowship. As a woman who dared to ask, she hopes to encourage women who want to become researchers to stay motivated. “Look for opportunities because they are there and do not be afraid to ask. Always go for what you want and keep going no matter the circumstances,” advised Dr. Ferrera.
We also had the chance to hear firsthand how it was rampant for women to shift to a different field just because of gender roles that seem to fit in other caring professions such as being a doctor. Included in the forum were Dr. Didith Rodrigo, Scientist and Author of Women in Science Children’s Books; Dr. Marieta Sumagaysay, Executive Director, National Research Council of the Philippines; Dr. Laura David, FWIS Philippines National Fellow 2011; and Dr. Aletta Yñiguez, FWIS Philippines National Fellow 2012, to name a few. Each shared on their experiences as Filipina scientists and the opportunities that they see to develop more thought leadership in the community.
More than just an awarding ceremony, the forum tackled the multifaceted challenges of gender inequality in the field of science, recognized women’s contributions across various fields, and underscored the critical need for their full participation in driving the sustainable development agenda.
THE SIX-POINT MANIFESTO
To end the program, a six-point manifesto was signed by representatives from L’Oréal, UNESCO, National Academy of Science and Technology (NAST), and the community to pledge support for the following:
- Break down the barriers that prevent women scientists from pursuing long-term careers in research.
- Celebrate with the public the contribution that women scientists make to scientific progress and to society.
- Promote mentoring and networking for young scientists to enable them to plan and develop careers that meet their expectations.
- Encourage girls to explore scientific career paths.
- Prioritize women’s access to senior positions and leadership positions in the sciences.
- Ensure gender equality through participation and leadership in symposiums and scientific commissions such as conferences, committees, and board meetings.
Knowing that such programs are in place, we’re hopeful that the Philippines (and the world) will give more importance to women’s roles in society, especially in a time like this when misogyny is starting to creep up the system once again.
For more details about FWIS and how you can pledge support, visit:
Facebook: L’Oreal-UNESCO For Women in Science