On February 12th we celebrate International Day of Women and Girls in Science. This day was implemented by the UNESCO and UN-Women to acknowledge women’s contribution to science and to promote full and equal access to and participation in science for women and girls.
Today we want to highlight the women at CLR and so we asked three of our female scientists what it means to be a woman in science and what we can further improve to help women gain the success and acknowledgement they truly deserve. Here is what they said.
Ivonne Burger, Scientific Assistant Product Development Laboratory
One hundred years ago, women’s lives were a lot different than they are today: Their role was rigidly defined with very limited options to choose their own paths. A self-determined life was only attainable for a few wealthy women and only to a certain extent.
How difficult it was for a woman to study medicine and become a physician is something Rahel Hirsch experienced when she was told that “women cannot physically nor mentally meet the requirements to be a medical doctor.” But against all opposition she became the second female doctor at the well-known Berlin Charité hospital and the first female professor in Prussia.
But Rahel Hirsch and all the other brave women who fought for their right to become scientists, didn’t just do it for themselves – they fought for all of us, so that women today can decide for themselves who they want to be and what they want to do with their lives. I am happy and thankful because I love being a scientist!
I remember, my first class reunion was around the time when I was about to attend university to study biotechnology. My former classmates passed around pictures of their children while I showed them pictures of my bacterial colonies, all their beautiful, unique colors and shapes and I felt very proud.
Science has always been my life and it still is. Today I am also a happy wife and mother. Traditional gender roles are more and more replaced by diverse ways of living, which enable us to lead self-determined lives. To meet all expectations while pursuing our own happiness is today’s biggest challenge for women.
I am thankful to all those women who paved the way in the past so I can work as a scientist today and contribute to the wonderful world of science.
Barbara Restel, Technical Assistant Cell Biology Laboratory
In school I had always been good at maths and biology but, like many others, as a young woman I found it hard to choose the right profession for myself. Fortunately, I listened to the advice of my counselor and pursued a career in scientific research. I had the chance to look at different scientific fields through internships and soon discovered, that I wanted to study cells. I am fascinated by their immediate reactions to environmental influences.
I have always felt the urge to get to the bottom of any problem. While my friends sometimes make fun of me for wanting to know the reason behind everything, now I actually get to work with people who share the same deep sense of curiosity. I enjoy working in a team in which everyone can contribute their individual skills, expertise and mindset and gender is not important. In the future I would love to see even more women in leading positions, not only in science but in all professional fields.
Today I am very happy, that I chose to follow a career in research where I can work on finding new solutions and developing innovative products.
Elvira Wurl, Technical Assistant Microbiology / Technical Application Laboratory
“Why is that?“ was my favorite question when I was a little girl. I was a curious child and conducted ‘experiments’ that included food or cleaning products, much to the disapproval of my mother. In school biology and chemistry were my absolute favorite subjects.
I did my school internship at a children’s hospital which made me fully realize the importance of science. Scientific research does not only help us understand ourselves and the world around us, it also improves and even saves lives.
With all the challenges science is facing right now we need the contribution of the brightest minds, regardless of gender. Thanks to Marie Curie and other strong and intelligent women who fought to become scientists in the past, women and girls nowadays can participate in all fields of science.
Today only 33 % of scientists worldwide are women. I am confident that if we keep up educational programs for girls, improve life-work-balance for mothers and recognize and communicate women’s accomplishments, men and women in science are going to be fully equal in the future.
I want girls and young women who aspire a career in science to stay positive even in challenging times, because we can achieve anything if we have trust in ourselves and believe in our work.