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How does CERN encourage women in science?

International Women in Science Day: CERN sends researchers to local schools and invites organisations to learn what inspires young women into science


How does CERN encourage women in science?

Sophie Baron, a scientist at CERN, speaks to children at a school in Crozet, France, to encourage them to choose a career in science. (Image: Maximilien Brice/CERN)

In physics, as in other sciences, there is often a huge gap between the number of men and women. Just 20% of CERN's community are women, and CERN wants to improve on this. To encourage and attract more women to choose science, particularly physics, as a career CERN is holding events for both Gender in Physics Day and the International Day of Women in Science.

Last week, female scientists working at CERN visited local schools, to try to inspire the next generation of women in science.

35 women who have careers as physicists, engineers and computer scientists at CERN and are fascinated by the world of science, went to speak to the pupils.

The women first introduced the students to CERN, and then explained their everyday work and how they became a part of this huge community. Most importantly, the women described what first interested them about the field.

“My motivation to participate in this programme comes from the fact I am the mother of a 7 year old girl, my sister works in education and I myself love interacting with kids,” explains Marta Bajko, a researcher at CERN. “I personally love to talk about science and hope that I can capture their attention. I had the chance as a kid to be influenced by my mother to choose a scientific career, now it is my turn.”

To mark the International Day of Women and Girls in Science, some of the speakers shared their own experiences of building a career in science, and their opinions about how women are perceived in their discipline. See the series of articles here.


Hannah Short, a British computer engineer, works in CERN’s computer security team. She shared her thoughts about working in the computing field. (Image: Sophia Bennett/CERN)


Additionally, on 27 January 2017, over 100 participants gathered for the fourth Gender In Physics Day. CERN co-organised the event with ESO and Nordforsk, as part of the GENERA project (Gender Equality Networks in the ERA). The day was a rich, interactive day with a variety of talks, personal insights, a panel discussion and workshops on promoting gender equality and creating solid networks in the field of physics.

The Directors-General of both CERN and ESO, as well as a representative for Nordforsk’s Director, opened the event, which was attended by Directors and participants from other EIRO organisations and from a range of institutes and projects.

Looking back on the day, Genevieve Guinot, Head of the Diversity Programme at CERN and the driving force behind the organisation of the event, reflected: “We are very proud that the event could bring together so many different institutes and organisations that face similar challenges in different contexts. Participants gave us the feedback that the event was inspirational, with a great opportunity to network and discuss ideas. CERN was perceived as a role model for building collaboration in the field of gender equality.”