Raissa Malu

11th February 2020

For the fifth year, we will celebrate the International Day of Women and Girls in Science on 11th February.

"Tackling some of the greatest challenges of the Agenda for Sustainable Development -- from improving health to combatting climate change -- will rely on harnessing all talent. That means getting more women working in these fields. Diversity in research expands the pool of talented researchers, bringing in fresh perspectives, talent and creativity." This is how the next International Day for Women and Girls in Science, 11th February 2020, is announced on UNESCO's website.

Of course, we are in complete agreement and I suggest that you "slip into our shoes" to understand this (high heels, sneakers or flip-flop 😊).

Not enough women in science

International days are usually the time to talk about the problems and difficulties highlighted by the theme of the day. For February 11th, we will remind you that there are not enough girls and women in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) and we will try to understand why (this problem differs from one country to another, from one culture to another).

You will be told that women scientists have less access to funding than their male colleagues. You will be told about the violence and discrimination they face in the academic and research world because they are women.

Concrete actions

All this is absolutely true and we are right to talk about it. For example, let me give you the testimony of Marie-Jean Meurs, Ph.D., a research professor at the Université du Québec à Montréal (UQÀM) interviewed by teams at the Montréal Science Centre: "According to her older colleagues, in the early 1980s, university cohorts were balanced in terms of numbers of men and women. But when computer science and data processing became fields in which one could obtain recognition, real social advancement, high-paying positions... things changed and the number of women gradually decreased."

Addressing these situations requires inclusive dialogue, common sense and good will, as well as concrete actions such as the L'Oréal Foundation's Programme For Women In Science and the Fellowships for Women in Science DRC that we have launched with Sultani Makutano.

Not a matter for controversy

You know, many of us women in science don't understand the controversy. Why would being a woman and embarking on a career in science be amazing, surprising, uncommon?

It's not always easy to evolve in an environment where you are the only woman, or the only woman of colour (as we are called), but we don't take that into account too much. That doesn't usually stop us.

We often take refuge in the work and safety of our laboratories. And perhaps with this motherly feeling, we love to teach, share, listen to our students.

We are also helped and supported. There's always a teacher to give you a hand, a colleague, friend, mentor or family member to help you focus on what's important, on the real goals.

The motto that will always fire our hearts is "For Science!" (with all due respect to some 😉).

I wish you a happy International Day of Women and Girls in Science on 11th February 2020.

Science is fun, join us! 😊

PS: I have not given any statistics on the situation of women and girls in science in the DRC, as we will be presenting them during the 7th edition of the Science and Technology Week from 17th to 22th April 2020.

To be continued. 😉

This post has first been published on LinkedIn. It has been translated in English by Afriscitech.

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