11 October: new grant gives a boost to female talent

When small children are asked to draw a professor, both boys and girls draw a man. New American research has indicated that even adult scientists have the same prejudice, while diversity in organisations has been proved to boost productivity. This is why the career of a talented female researcher will be given a boost on Thursday 11 October with the awarding of the first Dutch L’Oréal-UNESCO ‘For Women in Science’ fellowship.

Health scientist Judith Rietjens (34, Erasmus University) will be given the grant for her excellent interdisciplinary research into the use of palliative sedation (a way of lightening the intolerable suffering at the end of life). She currently works as a university lecturer at the department of Social Healthcare of Erasmus MC Rotterdam and at the Zorg rond het Levenseinde [care for the end of life] research group of Ghent University & Vrije Universiteit Brussel.

With the grant, Rietjens wants to create a framework that explains why palliative sedation is applied more in some countries than in others. For this she will compare the results of research of the Netherlands, Belgium, Great Britain and the USA. Rietjens: “I am driven by the desire to contribute to improving patient care in the final phase of life. My research aims to make care and desicion-making for these patients more evidence based and culturally sensitive.” She hopes that her research will pave the way to policy and expects the prize to also aid the application of, for instance, a prestigious VIDI grant.

The annual grant of €25,000 gives women the opportunity to fully dedicate themselves for several months to writing scientific articles in the stimulating environment of the Netherlands Institute for Advanced Study (NIAS) in Wassenaar.

With just 14.8 per cent female professors, the Netherlands comes last in Europe. The fact that the scientific top remains such a male affair is quite remarkable. Currently in the west over 40 per cent of female 25 to 34 year olds has a university degree compared to just 33 per cent of men. What still applies, however, is: the higher the academic position, the lower the number of women. This is why the Dutch ‘For Women in Science’ programme aims to help advance female talent in their scientific career and thus contribute to an increase of the number of Dutch female professors.

Cosmetics company L’Oréal and UNESCO launched the international L’Oréal-UNESCO ‘For Women in Science’ programme in 1998. Since then, more than 1,200 women scientists in 83 countries have been awarded. Two of them, Elizabeth Blackburn and Ada Yonath, have gone on to win the Nobel Prize. UNESCO stimulates worldwide equal opportunities and diversity, particularly in science.

On 11 October the Nationale UNESCO Committee, L’Oréal the Netherlands and the Netherlands Institute for Advanced Study (NIAS) will be presenting the first Dutch ‘For Women in Science’ fellowship to Judith Rietjens. This will be done during the ‘Pump your Career’ talent day in the Amsterdam Beurs van Berlage, organised by the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO) and the Dutch Network of Women Professors (LNVH).

More information on the Dutch grants can be found here www.forwomeninscience.nl/en/about-us/the-four-partners/.

This is the programme of the Pump Your Career talent day: www.nwo.nl/actueel/evenementen/pump+your+career.


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