June 06, 2018

For Women in Science: L’Oreal Foundation Awards 2018 National Fellow

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  • “You should just stay home and take care of your family.”

    “The best thing a woman should do is to get married and have kids.”

    These are some of the things women have been told for decades. As Filipinos, we’ve all grown up with the idea that women stay at home and take care of the kids while men are out hunting, planting grains, or fishing.

    Today, double income families are a thing and women are no longer relegated to being homebodies. The latest Gender Gap Report revealed that the Philippines is doing better than 134 other countries (yes, including the US and Japan), with 79% of the overall gender gap closed.

    AFTER A SIX-YEAR ABSENCE, the L’Oreal Foundation For Women In Science (FWIS) program is back with its latest National Fellow: Dr. Charissa Ferrera (center, holding plaque) from the UP Marine Science Institute.

    There are women leading large corporations and playing a major role in politics, but the world of science has largely been left out. This is why programs like the L’Oreal Foundation’s For Women In Science (FWIS) are crucial in promoting the potential of women in the many fields of science.

    SUSTAINABLE MARICULTURE. Dr. Ferrera hopes to change the way people look at fishing, particularly the mariculture in the towns of Bolinao and Anda in Pangasinan. Her research is looking into how current policies on the construction of fish pens and fish cages as well as the use of substandard fish feed affects not just the fishermen, but the town as a whole.

    June 5 marked the return of FWIS after a six-year absence as they awarded their newest FWIS National Fellow, chemical oceanographer Dr. Charissa Ferrera. She is a post-doctoral researcher at the University of the Philippines Marine Science Institute (UP-MSI) and is pushing for sustainable mariculture to counter the effects of harmful algal blooms (red tide) and fish kill.

    “I see my win as an opportunity to create a ripple effect that will allow for more individuals to be inspired to pursue careers in science,” shared Dr. Ferrera.

    She also had this to say for women who want to be scientists: “Look for opportunities because they are there and do not be afraid to ask. Always go for what you want and keep going no matter the circumstances.”

    This was echoed by other scientists in attendance, namely Dr. Reiko Kuroda (2013 FWIS Global Laureate for Asia/Pacific for her work in determining chirality in inorganic and organic chemistry), Dr. Lourdes Cruz (2010 FWIS Global Laureate for her work in the biochemistry of toxic peptides), and Dr. Rhoroda Aranza (President, National Academy of Science and Technology and the Red Tide Queen).

    A strong support system is vital

    Women may have their scientific idols in the women present during the awarding of Dr. Ferrera, but without a strong support system, their dreams will go to waste. This was one of the questions raised during the panel discussion, which had four women from different fields of science sharing their experience in being both a mother and a scientist.

    A COMMITMENT TO WOMEN IN SCIENCE. The  afternoon was capped with the signing and a pledge for women who want to get into science.

    They all agreed that while interest in science is important, women (and men) will not prosper as scientists if they do not get the support they need. Dr. Laura David, 2011 FWIS Philippines National Fellow, said “women in other countries may have difficulty in pursuing a career in science, but the situation in the Philippines is different.”

    “You have relatives and/or house help to rely on when you need someone to watch over your child, which led us to put up a daycare center of sorts at the UP College of Science,” she added.

    2012 FWIS Philippines National Fellow Dr. Aletta Yñiguez, on the other hand, said it’s best to start in the family. “Education is a way to stop bottlenecks for kids to go into science. Let’s break down stereotypes of what they can pursue.”

    She also stressed the importance of having a supportive partner in life once people do pursue a career in science. 

    Written by Andronico Del Rosario

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