According to the UNESCO report, 53% of world's bachelor's and master's graduates in science and 43% of PhD holder are women. However, today, only 28% of scientists are women and only 3% of Nobel Prizes for Science have been awarded to women since the awards began in 1901. These statistics clearly demonstrate that women are under-represented in science and the glass ceiling for women in science remains intractable.
For over 20 years, UNESCO and L'Oreal Foundation have been working side by side to support women scientists. The L’Oréal-UNESCO for Women in Science National Fellowship (FWIS) program is a partnership between L’Oréal-UNESCO Malaysia with the Ministry of Education (MOE) and Academy of Sciences Malaysia, to award outstanding young women scientists in their field of research and inspiring women scientists of tomorrow.
To ensure that the program receives the best representation from Malaysia, L’Oréal-UNESCO Malaysia collaborated with the University of Malaya Office of Industry and Community Engagement (UM ICE) and the Young Scientists Network – Academy of Sciences Malaysia (YSN-ASM) to organize the L’Oreal-UNESCO for Women in Science National Fellowship Roadshow 2019. Other than promoting and encouraging more women scientists to apply for the L’Oreal-UNESCO for Women in Science Award 2019, the event provides a platform to discuss the opportunities and challenges faced by women scientists, and how men could better support and empower women in science. Ultimately, it is hope that through this event, more women scientists will be inspired to take on the challenge to be inspirational to others!
"University of Malaya is continually inspired by the strong impact women have on academia. We strongly support this initiative by L’Oreal-UNESCO, and encourage women to apply for promotions and pursue career progression", said Datuk Ir. (Dr.) Abdul Rahim Hj. Hashim, University of Malaya (UM) Vice-Chancellor during his welcoming speech.
The FWIS program sharing session was moderated by Professor Dr. Abhi Veerakumarasivam from Sunway University, and the panelist were Ms. Zaireen Ibrahim (Corporate Communications Director of L'Oreal Malaysia), Associate Professor Dr. Normi Mohd Yahaya (preliminary judge of FWIS and past winner from Universiti Putra Malaysia), Associate Professor Dr. Chan Yoke Fun (2014 FWIS and international FWIS winner from UM) and Dr. Chai Lay Ching (2018 FWIS winner from UM; Chair of YSN-ASM).
The last session of the event was an interesting forum on "Men for Women in Science" to explore and discuss how men can actively involve and engage in providing better support and empowerment for women in science from two different perspectives: senior and established couple; versus young and promising scientist couple. The forum was moderated by Datuk Professor Dr. Awg Bulgiba Awg Mahmud (Council Member for ASM as well as Professor from UM). The panelists include the prominent scientists, Senior Professor Dato' Dr. Khalid Yusoff (Vice Chancellor and President of UCSI) and Professor Datin Paduka Dr. Khatijah Mohamad Yusoff (senior professor from Universiti Putra Malaysia); and the young and promising scientists, Dr. Chong Chun Wie from International Medical University and Dr. Cindy the Shuan Ju from UM, who is also a member of the YSN-ASM.
More initiatives have been going around the world to encourage women and girls to study and work in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). The Malaysian government identified STEM as one of the catalysts for transforming the country into a developed nation by 2020, ensuring enough STEM-related human capital, resources, and infrastructure. The government also recognizes the need to capitalize on female participation to promote its economic and national development. The country has made great efforts to increase the percentage of women in the workforce, resulting in an increase of 95% across all fields from 2,374,300 in 1990 to 4,689,700 in 2012. Attracting and retaining more women in the STEM workforce will maximize innovation, creativity, and competitiveness. Women and men have a role to play. Without more women being present when decisions are made, STEM innovations, progressions and discoveries can only go so far.
"We hope with all these efforts, the industry will continue to grow especially in promoting science as a career for women in years to come", added Zaireen Ibrahim, Corporate Communications Director of L'Oreal Malaysia.
The world needs science, and science needs women. The share of women working as engineers is also higher in some developing countries. It is imperative to raise awareness about the work of women scientists by providing equal opportunities for their participation and leadership in a broad spectrum of high-level scientific bodies and events. Women with skills in science and technological fields can help improve vital infrastructure such as water and power supply, and in doing so ease the responsibilities that women and girls carry of providing unpaid care work for the household.