Today, we mark the International Day of Women and Girls in Science by telling some of the many stories of women, who have chosen a path in the field of science. Please welcome Josefin and Zeljana, as they share their very own experiences and perspectives, as professionals in a world of chemistry.
Throughout the years, a gender gap has continued to exist across the field of science. Though women have made huge progress in participating in higher STEM educations, they are still underrepresented within these fields. To inspire and engage women and girls in science, each year on February 11th, UN zooms in on today’s challenges of equal access to science.*
Meet Josefin, Patent Attorney at Perstorp
Already as a young girl in school, Josefin got excited about math, physics and chemistry.
“I remember the fascination I felt, when I realized that everything around us is built up from small molecules and that you, by understanding the nature of these small molecules, can understand, predict, create and enhance almost any processes and products in the world,” Josefin comments.
The fascination of chemistry lead to a Master of Science in Chemical Engineering and today Josefin works as a Patent Attorney at Perstorp – a versatile profession with the possibility to follow an invention from idea creation, through different developing phases and all the way to product commercialization.
Female role models and work-life balance are key
Despite better opportunities for women and girls in science today, Josefin still believes that there is room for improvements.
“To increase the number of women in top positions and to get women to invest in their careers, a good work-life balance is crucial, allowing a combination of career and family for both men and women. It is important, to continue to encourage men to take parental leave and to make it economically reasonable.
I also think that it is important, especially for young women, to see that women can have central roles in the science and chemistry industry and make great achievements. It is very important to have female role models to encourage young women to believe in their skills and their abilities. I truly believe that women’s contributions are needed in STEM in order to find the best sustainable solutions for the future,” Josefin ends.
Meet Zeljana, R&D Senior Development Chemist at Perstorp
Though her interest didn’t initially began with chemistry, Zeljana’ s passion for reading and learning let her on to the path of science.
“As a little girl, I got the impression, both from literature and from my social environment, that girls were less respected than boys. It gave me a major driving force to try to succeed in everything I do. My reasoning for choosing chemistry in the end, was the universal factor of chemistry,” says Zeljana.
While Zeljana took her degree in Chemistry at Belgrade University and worked for multiple years in Bosnia and Hercegovina, she travelled to Sweden in 1992, due to the war in Bosnia. To secure her future, she participated in a course in Växjö for immigrants with an academic background. But little did she know that the course and an internship at Perstorp would lead her to where she is today, working as a R&D Senior Development Chemist.
Closing the gender gap by appreciating our differences
Educational institutions as well as workplaces have a massive role to play, in offering equal opportunities for all, while accepting and appreciating that women can be both successful employees and researchers, as well as balancing family life.
“When we speak about a gender gap it is important to think about life circumstances. I feel very strongly for the thesis that women and men are different by nature and that we can achieve the best result, both in professional and private life, if we are aware of differences, respect them, learn much about each other, try to understand and help each other. Mixed teams simply gives the best results.
From my personal story, as a woman and immigrant, I have learnt that thanks to enthusiasm, a will to learn and work, and above all, thanks to the help from society, employer, colleges, neighbors and good and helpful people, there is a place for you, also in science,” Zeljana comments.
*UN’s International Day of Women and Girls in Science