The World Needs Science, and Science Needs Women

The World Needs Science, and Science Needs Women

On the opening day of the Second Eurasian Women’s Forum, Forum experts identified obstacles hindering women's access to the world of science and innovation.

The Second Eurasian Women's Forum international expert session on “The Role of Women Scientists in the Global Challenges of our Time” (19–21 September 2018) brought together women who have achieved outstanding success in various areas of science, education, and public awareness in St. Petersburg’s Tavricheskiy Palace.

Women make up more than half the world's population but only 30 percent of world researchers. Since the creation of the Nobel Prize in science, less than 3 percent of awards have been awarded to women.

Session participants were tasked with finding the cause of the gender imbalance in science and ways to overcome it, what was keeping girls and young women from entering science, the main problem facing women scientists with children, and how to strengthen international scientific cooperation.

According to one of the session moderators, Angela Melo (Mozambique), Director of Policies and Programmes, Division of Ethics, Youth and Sport, Sector for Social and Human Sciences at UNESCO, early marriages, pregnancy, and poverty lead to the total illiteracy of two-thirds of the female population of the planet. In this regard, UNESCO promotes gender equality and the empowerment of girls and women in access to education.

“You cannot leave behind half of the world's population! Not because they are women, but because we are people,” Angela Melo said.

The UNESCO representative recalled that girls were more successful in junior school and then in university, though they had an extremely difficult time breaking into the greater world of science, despite sharing potential equal to that of men. And nevertheless, they succeed.

“The education of boys is important for us too,” Ms. Melo said. “In order not to drag science along afterwards without support, but to move it forward together with the men.”

“Science even brings nations together,” session co-moderator, Deputy Minister of Education and Science of the Russian Federation, Russian accelerator physicist and academic of the Russian Academy of Sciences Grigory Trubnikov added. Highly appreciative of the content of the session’s expert speeches, the deputy minister jokingly asked that it be taken into account that he “had not interfered with anyone and had not regulated anything today,” after which he agreed with the opinion that, although women scientists were coping with the challenge of managing the largest scientific laboratories, men needed to help by shouldering their share of the burden and creating social conditions that would motivate women to go into science.

The new law on science developed by the Ministry must reflect the premise repeatedly expressed by the speakers about the need to establish a gender balance.

However — the academic once again remarked to the audience’s delight — love, without which there was no life and, consequently, no science, would make short work of the gender crisis.

To conclude the session, the moderator, Zinaida Dragunkina, Chair of the Committee of the Federation Council on Science, Education, and Culture, called on participants to approve by vote the final session communiqué, addressed to country and government leaders in cooperation with UNESCO and the UN and aimed at supporting girls and women to fully realize their potential as scientific researchers and innovators. The head of the Federation Council Committee also stressed that, based on the Russian president’s decision to declare 2018–2027 the Decade of Childhood, “it would be necessary to do much to cultivate the rising generation of research staff.”

In this sense, the conferring of awards on 3 small winners of the UCMAS mental arithmetic championship, which had taken place on the opening day of the Second Eurasian Women's Forum, was highly symbolic.

Tina Stankevich, Eurasian Women's Community News Agency