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Women Are Three Times Less Likely than Men to Become Scientists

International report unveils gender inequality trends in science professions resulting from stereotypes and prejudice; foundation encourages greater support of women in research.

If negative gender stereotypes around science didn't exist today, the world would benefit from 300,000 additional doctors in science annually, according to a report released today by the L'Oreal Foundation, which explores the vast underrepresentation of women in scientific professions. Data from 14 countries was compiled by the Boston Consulting Group to determine at which points in their educational and career paths women veer away from science. The report was released in conjunction with a ceremony in Paris to honor five female scientists with the L'Oreal-UNESCO For Women in Science Award for their exceptional talent, deep commitment to her profession and courage in a field largely dominated by men.

Root of gender gapThe report underscores a basic fact that sharply contrasts with a widespread prejudice regarding women and science: In high school, with little or no choice about the subjects they study, females perform as well as males in science courses. Yet, following graduation – when young adults can decide for themselves what profession to pursue – the number of women entering scientific careers drastically declines. This wide divide stems, the report concludes, from perpetuated gender stereotypes that leave young women believing that science is not a viable career path. As a result, fewer women than men go on to obtain doctorates in science and to occupy leading positions in laboratories, universities and research institutions. In fact, less than three percent of Nobel Prizes in the sciences have been awarded to women since its inception in 1901.
According to the findings, the leaky pipeline of women entering scientific professions arises as early as Bachelor level.  Only 32 percent of undergraduate degrees in science are earned by women, and this proportion drops to 30 percent for Master's degrees and 25 percent for doctorates. A mere one in 10 women (11 percent) holds the highest academic positions in scientific disciplines. Progress is far too slow, with the number of female researchers only improving by 12 percent (up three points from 26 to 29 percent) in the last decade.
"Founded by a scientist more than 100 years ago, L'Oreal has always been a business driven by science. Innovation is our way of life and that means we depend on the contributions women make to the field. In fact, 70 percent of L'Oreal's Research and Innovation global workforce are women, and they drive growth, innovation and discovery across all facets of this company," says Sara Ravella, Chief Executive Officer of the L'Oreal Foundation. "If the world is to meet the scientific challenges of the 21st century, we must challenge deeply-rooted stereotypes and develop a stronger, more robust pipeline of young scientists to help us innovate every single day. Over the last 16 years, we have joined forces with UNESCO to do exactly that."
For Women in ScienceToday in Paris, the L'Oreal-UNESCO For Women in Science Awards will recognize female Laureates from each world region (Africa and the Arab States, Asia-Pacific, Europe, Latin America, and North America) and 15 International Fellows for their achievements in science. Throughout its 16-year history, the program has recognized more than 2,000 women, including two Nobel Prize recipients, in 110 countries.
The 2014 North American recipient is Dr. Laurie Glimcher, a worldwide pioneer and leader in the field of immunology, who is being honored for discovering key factors involved in controlling immune response in allergies and in autoimmune, infectious and malignant diseases. The very first woman to be named Dean of Weill Cornell Medical College in New York, Dr. Glimcher is paving the way for the development of new treatments for allergies, asthma, multiple sclerosis, childhood diabetes and cancer.
Commitment to Female Scientists in the U.S. L'Oreal USA hopes to improve the status of women in science and break science-based gender stereotypes through increased mentorship and promotion of all scientific fields through the USA Fellowships For Women in Science program, which seeks to raise awareness of the contribution of women to the sciences and identify exceptional women researchers to serve as role models for younger generations. As part of the program, winners have the opportunity to connect with and mentor past recipients and fellows.
The official call for applications for the 2014 USA Fellowships For Women in Science program is March 24, 2014. This year, the program will also be evaluating potential candidates on their commitment to mentorship and community involvement. For more information, visit http://www.lorealusa.com/forwomeninscience.