More Women Are Thriving In Science – Does That Mean Attitudes Have Changed?

Do More Women Succeed in Science Mean Attitudes Have Changed?

Over the past four years, women have excelled in science like a tsunami.
Half a dozen women have won Nobel prizes in physiology, medicine, physics, and chemistry. Their remarkable accomplishments include Katalin Karikó’s work on Covid-19 mRNA vaccines and Andrea Ghez’s discovery of a supermassive black hole at the center of our Milky Way galaxy.
The first scientific Nobel prize earned by two women alone was awarded in 2020 to Jennifer Doudna and Emmanuelle Charpentier for their Crispr genome editing technology, which could heal many ailments.

So what’s up? Have perceptions toward women in science changed?
Celebrating women who achieve the top of their scientific careers keeps girls in school, but it’s easy to overlook the continuing impediments to access. For every woman who defies gender norms and becomes a scientist, thousands are discouraged by professors or parents, lack confidence to take the first step, or are refused treatment and reproductive rights.

The International Day of Women and Girls in Science reminds us that gender equality and scientific career opportunities for all must be addressed. UN international days are supposed to raise awareness of “issues of concern” as well as celebrate.
My life shows girls that dreaming big pays off. With the support of my parents, I went from growing up in Rwanda to living on three continents, earning a doctorate in molecular genetics and a professorship at McGill University in Canada, working in the private sector and boardrooms around the world, and now leading a leading research organization.

I became CEO of the Center for International Forestry Research and World Agroforestry last year, becoming the first African female CGIAR research center chief. In April, Yvonne Pinto will lead the International Rice Research Institute, marking the first time in more than 50 years that two African women would manage CGIAR institutes.

As Ismahane Elouafi and Lindiwe Majele Sibanda lead the board and senior management, we will join a growing community of African women leaders in food systems, climate, and biodiversity protection. Our collective potential is unlimited now that we have leadership positions.

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