Adolphe Merkle Institute Professors Alke Fink and Barbara Rothen-Rutishauser, along with Dr. Sofia Martin Caba, are one of two recipients of the inaugural 2019 Materials Today Agents of Change Award.
The award, announced on January 2, and worth $10,000, recognizes their project aimed at boosting the professional role confidence of female scientists. Their proposal, based upon their own observations and those of other female academics, highlights that women researchers often lack this confidence as they attempt to rise up the academic ladder, something that need to be recognized as a major hurdle for career progression. Missing confidence can also engender a negative feedback loop, leading to lower publication rates, as well as decreased grant and professional success.
Different courses of action have been put forward to boost the success of female researchers. These include round table discussions on the topic of professional role confidence, as well as an extended workshop on the same theme for women scientists at all levels, organized by female professionals and role models. These events should help female researchers build up a strong network in Switzerland in the materials engineering field, exchange ideas, know-how, or set up joint programs for example with the goal of addressing the aforementioned lack of “professional role confidence”.
“This proposal’s vision is to help implement a true culture of gender equality, to achieve a real gender balance among the next generation of materials scientists, and to provide a role model for the enhanced integration of women in natural and life science disciplines,” says Rothen-Rutishauser, who is also the NCCR Bio-Inspired Materials Delegate for the Advancement of Young Researchers and Women. “The award will give us a great opportunity to intervene where we recognize there is a gap – the lack of professional role confidence of female scientists.”
The Professional Role Confidence nomination was applauded by the Materials Today jury for its evidence-based approach and evaluation, clear definition of success, and strong sustainability plan. The other winning initiative was the Women+ of Color Project proposed by female graduate students at Harvard University and Johns Hopkins University, which aims to provide an open platform for women of color to communicate about best practices for applying to graduate, surviving graduate school, maintaining research productivity, and growing academic careers.
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