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Women scientists win recognition

Award ceremony honors outstanding achievements in variety of disciplines, Li Yingxue reports.

By LI YINGXUE | China Daily | Updated: 2024-05-25 12:27
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The report on the portrait of Chinese researchers from a gender perspective reveals that female researchers generally have more collaborators and larger collaborative networks than their male counterparts. Teams led by women are also larger.

Fan Xuanmei, a researcher at Chengdu University of Technology, and deputy head of the national key laboratory of geohazard prevention and geoenvironment protection, spends much of her time leading teams through rugged terrain in the wilderness. Her priority is not only completing projects but also ensuring the safety of her team.

Yet, she finds that the beauty of science and nature offers one of the most profound experiences for the human spirit. Being able to witness and understand certain aspects brings her immense satisfaction and fulfillment.

Fan changed her research focus after visiting the Wenchuan earthquake site in Sichuan province in 2008. She decided to work to improve predictions of geological hazards caused by earthquakes because she believed it could save more lives.

Balancing motherhood and work proved tough for Fan.

"My little one woke up needing to be fed four or five times a night. For about a year, I barely slept and then had to work during the day, feeling really tired," Fan says.

She knows many women researchers face this problem. She talked about the "leaky pipeline effect" — though many women start in research, fewer make it to top positions.

As her child grew, she realized better childcare services could help more women pursue research. Taking action again like in Wenchuan over a decade ago, she joined discussions with other female scientists, suggesting improvements to childcare support.

Her years at disaster sites made her notice changes. "Some national policies changed in 2023, relaxing age limits for women in talent programs and easing worries for breastfeeding moms. More policies like these would be great," Fan says.

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