Science and gender equality, and especially gender equality in science are both vitally important if we are to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030. Despite recent efforts, many women and girls are still excluded from participating fully in scientific fields. According to a study conducted in 14 countries, the probability of female students graduating with a Bachelor’s degree, Master’s degree and Doctor’s degree in a science-related field is 18%, 8% and 2% respectively, while the percentages of male students are 37%, 18% and 6%.
For this reason, the United Nations declared February 11 a day to renew our commitment to achieving "full and equal access to and participation in science for women and girls", and to "further achieving gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls."
The European Development Days 2018 will center around Women and Girls at the Forefront of Sustainable development, with strengthening women and girls' voice and participation as one of the three key themes. In the spirit of this day and in the spirit of the EDD 2018, I decided to celebrate a young woman in science and interview my fellow young leader and blog editor, Elsa Zekeng, about her experience.
What does science mean to you? "Personally, science is a form of self-expression, a way of thinking and a way of life. After 8 years in Science; a bachelor’s degree and currently finishing my PhD in infectious diseases and global health, I can confidently say - the process from identifying and understanding a problem to finding a solution and then proving it - is the most exciting and bumpy roller coaster ride!"
What has been your experience as a women in science? "I have been very fortunate, and I attribute my overall “success” and love for science to several factors. My father who consciously or subconsciously exposed me to certain experiences from a young age, my PhD supervisor (male) who is understanding and stands for gender equality, and the community of dedicated and strong women in science from whom I have drawn strength, knowledge and tips."
What is important to remember on this, the third International Day for Women and Girls in Science? "Women supporting women and men supporting women are as needed in science as it is in any field. The process of contributing to human knowledge is daunting, but very empowering and every girl should have the opportunity to choose and follow this path."
A final year PhD candidate in Infectious Disease and Global Health, Elsa specialises in health care in developing countries. Responding to the WHO’s call for scientists, she deployed to the Ebola treatment center in Guinea, where she lead a team in medical treating Ebola patients. Furthermore, Elsa has co-founded the NorthWest Biotech Initiative (NBI), a student led initiative to link academia to industry and encourage social entrepreneurship in the health sector.