Share this article with friends
Says Professor Federico Mayor, Director General of UNESCO from 1987 to 1999: "Sharing is key to the future for everyone, especially sharing knowledge. I believe strongly in the effectiveness of active cooperation between large private corporations and UNESCO, since it is society as a whole that must confront and master the great challenges in the world today". One graphic example of this idea in practice is a partnership between UNESCO and Groupe L'OREAL, a famous cosmetic company. The partnership is aimed at promoting women in scientific research on a worldwide scale.Why this task and why such attention given to it?
Our magazine has already told you how Helena Rubinstein (HR)-an elite, though not so large cosmetic company - came up with the initiative to institute an international award. Women in Science, and named it after Helena Rubinstein, the company's founder. The initiative was upheld by one of the most authoritative organizations, UNESCO, whose goal has always been to help women worldwide in unfolding their great talents in science and in social activities. The first four prizes were presented on behalf of the two sponsors to four eminent women scientists from Latin America, Europe, Africa and Asia.*
Helena Rubinstein was born in Poland in 1872. A competent chemist, she lived for some time in Australia, USA and France. The cosmetic company she founded - Helena Rubinstein (HR) - is spending much on scientific research and development, and producing both cosmetic and health creams. Today HR is but a small part of the cosmetic giant, Groupe L'Oreal.
The first HR awards had great international repercussions and won public approval, and so in 1999 the L'Oreal empire signed a partnership agreement with UNESCO.
Are there many women in science? Let's have a look. There are many of them in medicine as well as in biology; fewer in chemistry, and still fewer in physics and mathematics. Below I am going to cite some data of UNESCO, France and USA. This statistics may differ. But what is typical of the global picture is this: the higher a scientist's position in the pyramid of success, the fewer scientists among women. Say, in France women represent only 32 percent of the workforce of the Centre national de la Recherche scientifique (1997); in the United States, women hold a 30 percent share of scientific research
* More about that in "Women in Science" Science in Russia, No. 6, WS.-Ed.
jobs (1999). All in all, according to UNESCO data, worldwide women account for 48 percent of the world's psychologists; they make up 30 percent of those involved with life sciences, sociology and the computer science; 15 percent in physics; and 11 percent in ecology.
One reason for this injustice is that women have limited access to scientific training, and even fewer of them get jobs. In the United States, for example, in the computer sciences, 50 percent of students enrolled are women, but only 28 percent get a Bachelor's degree, 16 percent carry on to do a Ph.D. and only 6 percent of them get a job. A similar situation holds for many other countries, and also developed ones, unfortunately.
This inequality is not but of yesterday. The woman's traditional role in the family and child-rearing - as the custodian of the household - is a major obstacle for her involvement elsewhere, in science too. Hence the ingrained ideas about womankind's capacity to handle a career demanding substantial intellectual application and analytical thinking. It is due in part to such biased notions that
Europe's oldest scientific institutions like the Royal Society of London and the Academic des Sciences in France would for centuries exclude women from their colleges, even when they were best qualified. Cambridge University even kept women out of its degree programs just fifty years ago.
The mold was broken by the Russian mathematician Sofia (Sonja) Kovalevskaya, the first woman to become a corresponding member of the St. Petersburg Academy of Sciences (1889), by the physicist and chemist Marie Sklodowska-Curie, an honorary member of the USSR Academy of
Professor Joanne CHORY (North America)
Professor Chory is one of the world's best known researchers in molecular plant biology (La Jolla, California, USA), She has brought new understanding to two studies of the way plants react to light. She was among the first to use genetics to determine how plants adapt their development and growth in relation to light. In darkness, and when underground, normal young plants are white, their stems grow quickly and their leaves remain folded. When exposed to light, stem growth slows down, leaves start unfolding, and the photosynthesis process begins to develop. Professor Chory's laboratory has been dedicated to the critical genetic analysis of mutant plants growing in darkness in the same way as normal plants growing in light. These studies led to the discovery of transduction pathways for light signals. She then discovered the role of a class of plant steroid hormones-the brassinosteroids. Although it had been possible to purify them for some time, their precise function was still unknown. Professor Chory's team discovered that the mutant plants referred to above are deficient in brassinosteroid synthesis. They then discovered that the brassinosteroids act through a unique transmembrane receptor kinase, quite different from steroid hormone receptors in animals.
Professor Eugenia Maria DEL PINO VEINTIMILLA
Professor Del Pino has conducted important work (Quito, Ecuador) on the new, deep-seated modifications of the reproductive anatomy and physiology of South American marsupial frogs. She has brought to light the characteristics that show that similar vertebrates can be conceived in different ways.She also plays a fundamental role in protecting the Galapagos Archipelago, and collaborates with the Charles Darwin Foundation in designing and implementing a training program for young students in environmental protection-related research methodologies. This scientific work is carried out by each student in the Galapagos, and then presented as a thesis in Ecuadorian universities. As a result, several participants in this program have become national and international leaders in environmental protection. She has been a member of the Latin American Academy of Sciences since 1987 and a member of the Third World Academy of Sciences since 1989.
Professor Valerie MIZRAHI
Professor Mizrahi is an Italian citizen living in South Africa (Johannesburg), and specialized In molecular biology. She has been a member of the Royal Society of South Africa since 1991. She is one of 100 members of the South African Academy of Science and has been a member of the American Society for Microbiology since 1996. She has actively contributed to this discipline for the past ten years through her work in HIVenzymology and especially on HIV-1 inverse transcriptase. More recently she has worked on molecular mycobacteriology, researching new targets for drugs and vaccines in Mycobacterium tuberculosis. In Johannesburg, she has created a Center of Excellence in Molecular Biology-a teaching platform increasingly sought after by high-quality students, which has provided a scientific and technological basis for fighting health problems in South Africa.
Sciences, who merited the Nobel Prize twice, in 1903 and 1911, and by other eminent women. Marjorie Stephenson, a famous microbiolo-gist, was admitted to the Royal Society of London as late as 1945. During the twentieth century the Nobel Prize has been awarded to 435 men and... 12 women! In 1994,
Professor Marianne Grunberg-Manago (foreign member of the Russian Academy of Sciences) became the first woman to be appoined President of the French Academic des Sciences... Worldwide, only 5 to 10 percent of women hold positions of responsibility in the sciences today
That is why UNESCO and the cosmetic company L'OREAL joined hands in a program aimed at enhancing the women's involvement in science. The joint program for the world's women comprises two projects.
The first one provides for a prize worth 20,000 US dollars to each of the five prize winners from Africa, North America, South America, Asia and Europe. The jury for the HELENA RUBINSTEIN PRIZE 2000 headed by Professor Christian de Duve, Nobel Prize for medicine (1974) included Federico Mayor as its honorary president. The jurors have considered a list of candidatures suggested by the international scientific community for the HELENA RUBINSTEIN PRIZE 2000 and awarded it on January 10 to five women scientists (Professor Joanne Chory from North America, Professor Valerie Mizrahi from South Africa, Professor Tuneko Okazaki from Asia, Professor Eugenia Maria Del Pino Vientimilla from South America and Professor Margarita Salas from Europe) as a tribute to their accomplishments and as an encouragement to keep up their work.
The other project envisages UNESCO-L'OREAL Grants to be awarded to ten young women involved in post doctoral research (two from each of the above five continents) to provide incentives for their further pursuits and self-fulfillment.
Considering what has been said above and the fact that the UNESCO-L'OREAL partnership is an international program covering at least five years (up to the year 2004 inclusive), I invite Russia's women scientists to join in.
Academician Rem PETROV, member of the Jury for the Helena Rubinstein international awards
Professor Tuneko OKAZAKI
Professor Okazaki is one of the most eminent molecular biologists in Japan. She spent most of her career at the University of Nagoya (one of the country's leading educational institutions) where, in an unusual distinction for women other generation in Japan, she was the first woman to be appointed Professor. She has conducted major research into elucidating the mechanisms of discontinued DNA replication, and into chromosome segregation. She has also trained a large number of scientists who are now in key positions in the life sciences-nine other former students are Professors in leading universities,
After her tenure at Nagoya University, she was appointed professor at Fujita Medical University, Toyoake, where she is currently researching the centromere of human chromosomes and the development of artificial human chromosomes.
Professor Margarita SALAS
Professor Salas is one of Europe's most eminent molecular biologists (Madrid, Spain).
During a long career spanning more than 35 years, she has made a major contribution to our understanding of the mechanisms controlling DNA replication, one of biology's most fundamental processes. She has authored over 250 articles, which have been published in leading international journals. She was the first woman to be elected to the Spanish Academy of Sciences, and is today president of the institute that coordinates Spain's 8 royal academies. She is active in many national, European and international learned societies in molecular biology.
She was one of founders of biomedical research in Spain, and has inspired several generations of biochemists and molecular biologists not only in Spain, but throughout Europe, where her work and its implications have had a widespread impact on molecular biology.
Permanent link to this publication:
LRussia LWorld Y G