Business / Economy

Science students break down gender barriers

By Wu Yiyao (China Daily) Updated: 2015-09-17 10:21

Female high school students in Shanghai are breaking down gender barriers and embracing scientific knowledge.

A report released last month, based on "For Girls in Science", a high school outreach program of "For Women in Science", showed that scientific research is not just the preserve of male students.

"For Women in Science" was founded by cosmetics giant L'Oreal and UNESCO, and this latest survey, involving 1,200 female high school students across China, illustrated a changing educational landscape.

Up to 90 percent of girls polled said they were "interested" or "extremely interested" in scientific research. But less than half will pursue a career in science because of "stereotyping", the report revealed.

The stereotype image is that female researchers or scientists focus purely on their work and care little about family and private life.

They are also considered dull and unattractive, and even if they break into this male-dominated world, they are less likely to reap the rewards offered to their male colleagues, the report highlighted.

"The gap between being interested in science and becoming a researcher can be narrowed by exposing girls to real life," Liu Liping, director of the China Liaison Office of UNESCO Project on Education for Sustainable Development in China, said.

"If they had the opportunity to see female scientists at work and experience life in workshops, this would enable them to have a closer view about working as a scientist and living as a smart, independent woman."

For female scientific researchers, the key is to find the right work-life balance.

"Too many talented women drop out of university programs, and even post-doctoral research, because they fear they will miss out on getting married or having a child," Long Yaqiu, a researcher with the Shanghai Institute of Materia Medica under the Chinese Academy of Sciences, said.

The predictable stereotype is that "girls are not good enough" to take up a career in sciences, but this is just discrimination. "Girls should not give up their dreams because of these ridiculous notions," Long said.

In the report, female high school students admitted they were inspired after visiting and talking to women scientists.

They were also extremely keen to take part in laboratory experiments under the "For Girls in Science" program.

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