Meet L’Oreal-UNESCO Women In Science Program Winners

Pamela Connellan
on December 26, 2021

Meet the incredible Australian female scientists who are this year’s Fellows for the L’Oréal-UNESCO For Women in Science program which recognises the importance of supporting more women working in the field of science. 

The four Fellows were announced at the annual L’Oréal-UNESCO For Women in Science Ceremony in Melbourne and they are: Dr Philippa Karoly, University of Melbourne; Dr Mahdokht Shaibani, Monash University; Dr Kirsty Nash, University of Tasmania; Dr Jiawen Li, University of Adelaide; and Dr. Olivia Harrison, University of Otago.

The L’Oreal-UNESCO For Women in Science program has been running for 23 years and provides each Fellow with a $25,000 grant to continue their research and help them rise to leadership positions in their field of expertise.

There is still only 28% of researchers who are women with less than 20% making up the most senior leadership positions, and only 3% of Scientific Nobel Prizes have been awarded to women. So L’Oreal is to be commended for throwing their weight behind the need to support more women in STEM.

Here at Women Love Tech, we spoke with L’Oreal Sustainability Manager Dr Kiera Flynn and asked her: Why does L’Oreal support Women in Science?

“L’Oréal as a business has a strong connection to science. L’Oréal was founded by a scientist, Eugène Schueller over 100 years ago – without science, L’Oréal simply wouldn’t exist,” answered Dr Flynn.

“Further to this L’Oréal has a strong affiliation with women, and we always look to support women – whether it comes to vulnerable circumstances, confidence building, or any inequalities or inequities they might face. This is why in 1998, the L’Oréal Group and UNESCO came together to create the For Women in Science program.

“We know that women are underrepresented in the fields of STEMM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics, and medicine) and we face barriers in reaching leadership positions – and we want to help change this.

“This is important for the world – not only from an equality point of view – but for understanding and innovation. Every individual brings with them a new perspective, skills and voice and we must ensure that we are listening to all those voices. As such, women need to play a part in solving some of our greatest challenges and contributing to new innovations or technology that will change the way we interact with the world – and this is what we see from our incredible Fellows each year,” she said.

Women Love Tech: What does the For Women in Science selection panel look for in a Fellow?

“The Jury considers the following when reviewing applications: We consider academic records, ability to plan and conduct research, ability to interpret and communicate research findings, evidence of originality, initiative and productivity, and strong recommendation in reference letters. We consider the relevance of the research and its impact, the originality of the research proposal, and whether it is presented in a clear and compelling way.

Women Love Tech: Do you think there are other things we can do to encourage young women to work in STEM?

“Young women need to have more visibility of what a career in science looks like – and how it can open so many different doors. So, role models and mentoring are super important,” said Dr Flynn. “Beyond this, we need to remove the stereotypes of what a scientist is and does – perhaps young people do not realise how creative and entrepreneurial science and research is.”

“We need to 1) identify the barriers women face (which has been done quite extensively but can always be updated) & importantly 2) structurally change or remove those barriers. We must question things always, and as: has the structure of academia or the scientific industry adapted to ensure they are recruiting the best talent? This is something that successful businesses & companies consider all the time.”

Women Love Tech: What do you feel a more gender-balanced workforce brings to science?

“Every individual brings with them a new perspective, skills and voice and we must ensure that we are listening to all those voices,” said Dr Flynn. “As such, women need to play a part in solving some of our greatest challenges and contributing to new innovations or technology that will change the way we interact with the world – and this is what we see from our incredible Fellows each year.”

“We want to open as many opportunities for diverse thinking, creative thought and people challenging the status quo – and to do this you must have diversity (including gender balance). Diversity has proven to show its importance in decision making and problem-solving, fresh perspectives, new ways of thinking, and a variety of skillsets naturally help teams make decisions faster,” she added.

What is the local and global importance of the L’Oréal-UNESCO For Women in Science program?

“We are proud that the L’Oréal-UNESCO For Women in Science program has become a prestigious award – and truly recognising exceptional emerging as well as established talent. There are three award arms within the program – 1) national fellowships 2) International rising talents and 3) International Laureates. Three L’Oréal Laureates have gone on to win Nobel Prizes – the most notable recognition in science. Australia also has been well represented across these international awards – with Dr Jacq Romero from the University of Queensland awarded as a Rising Talent in 2019 and Prof Michelle Simmons from UNSW awarded as a Laureate in 2017 – the year before she was awarded Australian of the Year,” said Dr Flynn.

“At L’Oréal we are committed to supporting women in science and highlighting their research and expertise in their fields. Seeing how impressive our For Women in Science fellows are, is testament of this program each year. We are thrilled to showcase that science is a great career and anything can be done if you set your heart to it. We cannot wait to see these exceptional women progress in their research” says Rodrigo Pizarro, CEO of L’Oréal Australia & New Zealand,” she said.

“L’Oréal finds it critical to shine a light on scientific research and developments as we believe that the world needs science and science needs women.This year, once again L’Oréal UNESCO For Women in Science fellows are nothing short of inspiring and we are proud and excited to share their accomplishments in their unique field of expertise,” she concluded.

For more information about the L’Oreal-UNESCO For Women in Science program, visit here.

Caption for Photo at top of story: The presentation of the L’Oreal-UNESCO For Women in Science program 2021 with some of the Fellows from last year as well – pictured here are from left to right: Pip Karoly (2021), Marzi Barghamadi (2020), Rodrigo Pizarro from L’Oreal, Sarah Abo (presenter), Mahdokht Shaibani (2021) and Kate Ngyuen (2020).

For more from Women Love Tech on women and science, visit here.

https://womenlovetech1.wpengine.com/female-founders-apply-science-to-womens-health-issues/

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