Agora Issue 2008: How Women Contribute to Changing the face of Science

Various contributions for this issue can be found on the Agora Website:

http://www.agora.forwomeninscience.com/agora/


Read the contribution from Ms. Katalin Sulyok, the vice-president of the

Association of Hungarian Support Organizations for Giftedness


How Women Contribute to Changing the Face of Science

  • Policies and practices to help women reconcile a career in science with motherhood and family life  

The importance of the so called add-on grants are crucial in helping women scientists dealing with the challenges of motherhood. This form of financial support completes the obtained scientific grant with a considerable sum of money, which aim is to help women scientists in their research by helping them to face the challenge of family life. It could be spent on such expenses as the costs of an au-pair, maid, laundress or personal administrator.

  • How can young girls in the early years of schooling be encouraged to explore science? What can be done to change the attitude that  "science is for boys"? 

The attraction of children towards science could not be started too early. In the nursery school often the girls are encouraged to play exclusively with dolls and other ‘girlish’ toys, while they are distracted from the boys’ games such as Lego or others which improve the children’s technical approach. While playing with cars the boys face with fundamental physical phenomena like collision, acceleration etc that forms their attitude to physics and other technical sciences. If girls in very young age were involved as well in this type of experience they wouldn’t be alienated from science and scientific approach.

  • Young women, as well as young men, are in search of new paths to a meaningful life. Does a career in science provide a sense of purpose?

To emphasize the importance of role models is evidence in orientating young women and giving them perspective especially successful businesswomen in the R&D sector. Furthermore an average student is not aware of how wide is the range of carriers which could be chosen. The majority does not even know how many possibilities are beyond the classical professions as doctor, lawyer, teacher or economist. Offering possibilities for the girls to get to know scientific job opportunities in various fields of technical and natural sciences would expand their horizons. Experiences like discussions with experts, employees or have a one-day insight into different companies’ life would give them useful information in orientating themselves.

Introducing successful women in cutting-edge science could provide purpose. To emphasize that women could not just participate but could actively form and lead the scientific world could raise the girls’ self-confidence and show them an attractive carrier opportunity which worth working hard.

Let’s show them in early age what intrinsic aptitude they have which they could use with big success. I mean the more efficient use of traditional women's values, such as better communication skills in science-related projects, e.g. by asking girls to organize and tie together multi-disciplinary teams, as well as by promoting girls as interfaces between student teams and teacher or scientist supervisors.

  • So many of you mention childhood curiosity about the world as key to your later decision to become a scientist. How can parents encourage their daughters to develop such curiosity?

Within the framework of the 10-year-old talent-support initiative, the Hungarian Research Student Association (HRSA), we deal with talented and motivated adolescents interested in science. With a mentorship program these high school students are involved in real science by joining a scientific group’s everyday work. We are glad to say that exactly the half of the participating students were and are girls. That hopefully ratio also presents itself among the prize-winning students. Every year the best Hungarian research student has the possibility to take part in the Nobel Prize ceremony, until now the fifty percent of the delegated young was a girl. Based on our optimistic results we could say that the interest towards science exists equally in both gender, so the reduced presence of women among adult scientists has other social reasons and not the lack of interest, talent or motivation.

 

Ms. Katalin Sulyok

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