International Day of Women and Girls in Science

Today we mark the International Day of Women and Girls in Science! To celebrate women and girls in science, we are taken the opportunity to highlight extraordinary women and girls, making a true difference in science; historically, today and for the future.

UNESCO and UN Women are behind the International Day of Women and Girls in Science, celebrated each year February 11th. “Science reflects the people who make it. The world needs science, and science needs women and girls.” (UN Women). However, today only 30% of global researchers are women and 35% of the students enrolled in science and technology related studies (STEM fields) are women.*

Marie Curie – a pioneer in the field of science

When talking about significant woman in science, throughout the history, it is impossible not to mention Marie Curie – the first woman to be awarded with the Nobel prize, and the only woman to win the prize twice (one in physics and on in chemistry). Among her achievements was the development of the theory of radioactivity and the discovery of the two chemical elements; polonium and radium.

In 1903, when Marie Curie, her husband Pierre Curie and Henri Becquerel, where first nominated for the Nobel Prize, the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences did not want to include Curie because she was a woman. Luckily one of the committee members was in favor of women in science and eventually it was decided to include Curie – being the first woman to receive the Nobel Prize.

Sadly, her greatest achievements also resulted in her own death, while being exposed to dangerous radiation during her scientific work and due to her radiology work during World War I.**

Hanna, Product Stewardship Specialist at Perstorp 

I have always been very interested in science and driven by it. With an early interest in math, chemistry and biology, it was natural to continue on that route throughout my education.

I have an university degree in Toxicology and Environmental Science and today I work as a Product Stewardship Specialist within Regulatory Affairs at Perstorp. We are a team consisting of highly competent women, performing at the highest level, to achieve a non-toxic environment. This is, besides being a company objective, also one of 16 environmental quality objectives set by the Swedish Government and a driver for several of the UN Sustainable Development Goals. Further, the team is responsible for placing compliant products on the market for the intended use and fulfilling legislative demands, taking into consideration both human health and the environment.

Even though the opportunities for women in science are improving constantly, it still seems to be a challenge to achieve diversity at the top level. In my view, society is mostly equal, that is until women have their first child, after which they will start to fall behind in career development. In this area, there´s room for improvement. One of the most important aspects the employer can influence, is helping to accomplish a work/life balance for both men and women. Therefore, I highly value the work/life balance I have at Perstorp that enables me to perform both at work and at home. I’m also glad to see that Perstorp has a gender diversity within the Management Team and that the company is constantly working to improve.

It has been shown that despite women in general have a higher degree of post-secondary education, their income is lower compared to equally educated men. This should of course not be the case. Furthermore, neither men nor women should risk falling behind in career development during parental leave.

I’m science driven and all science show that performance increase with diversity. I’m a strong believer in the importance of diversity both in gender and in other aspects. In addition to closing gender gaps, there´s a need to look at diversity and equality in general e.g. regarding ethnicity, sexual orientation, culture etc.”

Alva, student at Perstorp Tekniska Gymnasium

My name is Alva, I am 18 years old and are at the moment studying the Industrial Process Engineering Program (Industri Tekniska Programmet) at Perstorp Tekniska Gymnasium. My interest in science started, when I was about 11 years old, when a group of scientists came to our class to show some experiments, which I thought was very fun and interesting. Around the same time my parents bought me a small chemistry set with a simple microscope, some test tubes and other things to use in smaller experiments.

I think it is important that women are represented in the science and chemistry industry, since it is such an important field. Long-term, having more women in science can create interest among more girls. Having a bigger mix of women and men in the workplace can also be a good investment for the company since men and women many times think in different ways and therefore complement each other in a good way.

Personally, I have not experienced any challenges as a young woman in science but I have heard about discrimination against women in the field of science, from the difference in salary, to not be taken seriously in meetings. This I hope is something that will change more in the future, and even though it has gotten better the past years, there is still a lot to be done. In the future I myself hope to work within the field of biology or other aspects related to people's health, which I see as two important and interesting fields.”


*UN Women: In Focus: International Day of Women and Girls in Science

**Atomic Heritage Foundation: Marie Curie