For the first time in the program’s history, a Ceremony, held at Expo 2020 Dubai, brought together 14 women from the MENA region to honor their remarkable discoveries in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM)
To mark the International Day of Women and Girls in Science on February 11th, taking place at Expo 2020 Dubai, the Fondation L’Oréal and UNESCO hosted the first For Women in Science Young Talents Awards Ceremony for MENA. The event took place in the Dubai Exhibition Center at Expo 2020 Dubai to honor and recognize 14 Arab female scientists from the MENA region for their groundbreaking research in the fields of Life and Environmental sciences, Physical sciences, Mathematics and Computer sciences. This program is part of the L’Oréal-UNESCO’s global For Women in Science initiative that has recognized over 3,900 phenomenal researchers and 122 Laureates from more than 110 countries and regions since its inception in 1998.
The Ceremony awarded a total of 14 Young Talents – five from various countries in the GCC, three from Egypt and six from Levant – in the PhD students and post-doctorate researchers categories, underscoring their role in solving today’s challenges as well as inspiring the future generation of females.
Since its inception in the region in 2010, the L’Oréal-UNESCO For Women in Science Young Talents program has awarded more than 160 female scientists and 11 Laureates from MENA. Among them, 16 Arab female scientists have also won an additional international recognition through the International Rising Talent program.
The event also welcomed a group of esteemed panelists to discuss how Arab Women scientists are breaking through barriers and inspiring the next generation of leaders and changemakers. The panelists included H.E. Dr. Nawal Al-Hosany, the Permanent Representative of the UAE to the International Renewable Energy Agency(IRENA), Dr. Anna Paolini, Director of UNESCO Office in Doha and Representative for the Gulf and Yemen, and Rana El Chemaitelly, the Founder and CEO of ‘The Little Engineer’. The panel was moderated by Alexandra Palt, Chief Corporate Responsibility Officer and CEO of the Fondation L’Oréal.
Based on the conviction that the world needs science and science needs women, the Fondation L'Oréal and UNESCO are committed to the promotion of women in science to make them more visible, to make their talent known and to inspire careers for future generations.
According to the latest UNESCO Science Report published in June 2021, although the number of women in scientific careers is increasing, reaching just over 33% of researchers worldwide, this evolution is still too slow.
In the various MENA countries, while gender parity is almost reached at the PhD level or at the start of a scientific career, there are still strong disparities to be observed depending on the countries and the disciplines. The glass ceiling remains a reality in research: the number of female researchers decreases as they access higher levels in their careers due to tremendous obstacles and barriers.
“L’Oréal and UNESCO have been a great advocates for the contributions women are making to the STEM sector,” said H.E. Sarah bint Yousef Al Amiri. “By recognizing and rewarding the vital role female scientists play in advancing knowledge in so many fields, they are not only inspiring new generations of young women to pursue careers in science and research but fostering a more inclusive, more representative scientific community.”
Her Excellency added: “The 14 exceptional scientists being honored at this year’s event, the first to be held in our region, are drawn from a wide array of disciplines, from life and environmental sciences to mathematics and computer sciences. This is a reflection of both the breadth of talent in the Middle East and the increasing opportunities for women here to apply it. As we move to a knowledge-based economy, a world where science and technology are increasingly front and center, it is essential the whole of humanity is able to play a role in shaping it.”
“At the Fondation L’Oréal, we are committed to doing our part in creating an equal opportunity environment that enables everyone to reach their full potential”, adds Alexandra Palt, Chief Corporate Responsibility Officer and CEO of the Fondation L’Oréal “Women have shown more than ever that they are necessary in every possible field of research. Their contribution to science is vital as we thrive to build a more sustainable, equitable and inclusive world. But too often, their roles are being limited by gender biases and other obstacles. Through the L’Oréal-UNESCO For Women in Science Program, we aim to improve the representation of women in STEM, to drive global impact by empowering more female scientists to achieve excellence at different stages of their careers and to encourage their participation in solving the great challenges of our time for the benefit of all.”
Dr. Arif Sultan Al Hammadi, Executive Vice-President, Khalifa University of Science and Technology said: “We are honored to partner withtheL’Oréal-UNESCO For Women in Science in the Middle East for the third consecutive year to shed light on the achievements of these extraordinary women in science. We were also extremely thrilled that the MENA ceremony was hosted at Expo 2020 in the UAE. Educational institutions have a crucial role to play in promoting gender equality and female participation in STEM fields, and as a research-intensive academic institution that believes in the empowerment of women across all areas, Khalifa University of Science and Technology is proud to underscore its support for this important movement. We would like to extend our warm congratulations to the winners of 2021, and we look forward to recognizing many more Arab female scientists in the future.”