On February 11th, the global community celebrates as UNESCO and UN-Women join forces with esteemed organizations to commemorate the International Day of Women and Girls in Science. It is a worldwide celebration for promoting equal opportunities not only in the world of test tubes and lab coats but also across diverse scientific sectors and disciplines. Serving as a platform for advocating equal opportunities in scientific inquiry and innovation, this occasion represents a collective acknowledgment and appreciation for the brilliant minds breaking gender barriers, making significant discoveries, and contributing to various scientific fields.
Overcoming Barriers: Challenges Faced by Women in STEM
In the fields of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM), women encounter diverse obstacles hindering their progression. From systemic biases and cultural stereotypes to lack of representation and limited access to resources, these challenges often impede their full participation and advancement in STEM fields. Discrimination, unconscious bias, and a dearth of mentorship opportunities further exacerbate the gender gap, making it essential to address these barriers to foster a more inclusive and diverse STEM community.
Sofia Papadaki, director of Dignity Private Company, a partner in the VALPRO Path project, highlighted that achieving work-life balance poses a significant challenge.
“Balancing career aspirations with family responsibilities is the most significant challenge that I am encountering every day. I try to manage the work-life balance by setting boundaries and a strict schedule. Moreover, well-organized tasks within the work team are fundamental.”
To overcome challenges encountered by women in STEM, fostering a supportive environment that addresses systemic biases and promotes gender equity is paramount. Providing mentorship opportunities, networking support, and access to resources can help women navigate career obstacles and build confidence in their abilities.
Women’s Role in Plant Protein Field
In the plant protein STEM field, women play a pivotal role in driving innovation, sustainability, and nutritional advancement. Through their expertise in fields such as biology, agronomy, food science, and engineering, women contribute to the development of novel plant-based protein sources, production methods, and technologies. Their insights and research efforts are instrumental in addressing global challenges such as food security, environmental sustainability, and public health. Moreover, as Sofia highlighted, women contribute to diverse viewpoints and foster collaborative approaches.
“Women scientists often excel at building collaborative networks and fostering interdisciplinary partnerships, which are essential for addressing complex challenges in plant protein science. Their ability to collaborate across disciplines and sectors strengthens research, innovation, and knowledge exchange. Women are also significant influencers of consumer preferences and market trends, particularly in the food and beverage industry. Their involvement in plant protein science helps ensure that products meet the diverse needs and preferences of consumers, driving market growth and sustainability.”
Empowering women of VALPRO Path
VALPRO Path expresses sincere appreciation for the remarkable achievements and exceptional contributions of women worldwide in revolutionizing the food industry and improving plant-based protein production. As the project seeks to nurture an environment across Europe conducive to the growth of plant protein independence, it’s crucial that we press forward with unwavering determination and collective effort to achieve this goal.
Words of wisdom
When we inquired with Sofia about advice for her younger self, her response was unequivocal:
“Be open-minded and always collaborate! Be a team worker and set high goals.”
Across the centuries, women scientists have blazed trails for future generations. In spirit, let’s honor some of the most renowned women scientists of all time, letting their wisdom light our path forward:
KATHERINE JOHNSON, NASA RESEARCH MATHEMATICIAN
“We will always have STEM with us. Some things will drop out of the public eye and will go away, but there will always be science, engineering, and technology. And there will always, always be mathematics.”
MARIE CURIE, DOUBLE NOBEL LAUREATE (PHYSICS & CHEMISTRY)
“You cannot hope to build a better world without improving the individuals. To that end each of us must work for his own improvement, and at the same time share a general responsibility for all humanity, our particular duty being to aid those to whom we think we can be most useful.”
BARBARA MCCLINTOCK, CYTOGENETICIST
“If you know you are on the right track, if you have this inner knowledge, then nobody can turn you off … no matter what they say.”
VERA RUBIN, ASTRONOMER
“In a spiral galaxy, the ratio of dark-to-light matter is about a factor of 10. That’s probably a good number for the ratio of our ignorance to knowledge. We’re out of kindergarten, but only in about third grade.”
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