The International Day of Women and Girls in Science, 11 February, is a key date for CERN and for the scientific community in general. It is an opportunity to remind ourselves that further efforts are needed to ensure gender equality in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). As the United Nations underlines, the world has to recognise the role of women and girls in science, not only as beneficiaries, but also as agents of change.
Of course, it is not a question of concentrating all our efforts only on this one day. Everyone can, on a daily basis and in all areas, be agents of change. In 2021, the Diversity & Inclusion programme launched the “25 by ’25” strategy, with the full support of CERN’s Management, to boost gender and nationality diversity within the staff and fellows population and, in 2022, the Enlarged Directorate endorsed CERN’s work on gender equality as constituting a Gender Equality Plan. At CERN, 21.9%(1) of the employed members of the personnel are women. Our aspirational target with the 25 by ’25 strategy is 25% by the end of 2025.
Formal frameworks can only become pathways to lasting change when we honestly confront mindsets that hinder or undermine progress. We need to do everything we can to prevent stereotypes from being perpetuated and to transform the way girls and boys think about science careers. Careers in STEM are accessible to girls and to boys – this is a fundamental message we need to take into schools. This is why CERN launched the “Women and Girls in Science and Technology” programme in 2017, an initiative that we are proud to be part of for the seventh year, in partnership with other research institutions in the region.
From 30 January to 3 February, a hundred volunteers, all female scientists from CERN, Scienscope (University of Geneva), the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) and the Annecy Particle Physics Laboratory (LAPP), visited around 240 classes in the local area to talk to the pupils about their professions and the projects and experiments in which they are involved. These role models make a real difference through their direct interaction with students.
In addition, to celebrate this years’ International Day, CERN is hosting this evening the show(2) “La Forza Nascosta – Scienziate nella Fisica e nella Storia” (“The Hidden Force – Women Scientists in Physics and History”), a musical highlighting the physics of the twentieth century through the eyes of four renowned women scientists. On 9 February, the CERN Diversity & Inclusion programme, in collaboration with the diversity offices of ALICE, CMS and LHCb, is hosting the interactive theatre-forum “Coffee Machine”(3), open to all CERN personnel. The event aims to raise awareness of how sexist behaviour can limit the full participation of women in the workplace. I look forward to both, and hope that many of you will join.
Attitudes are evolving, and we all have a responsibility to ensure that they continue doing so. The International Day is an opportunity for all of us to show that we take that responsibility seriously.
(1) Latest available statistics, as at 31.12.2021.
(2) Today, 8 February, at 8.00 p.m. at the Globe of Science and Innovation (in Italian with English subtitles). For more information and to register go to: https://indico.cern.ch/event/1228843/.
(3) On 9 February from 2.00 to 4.00 p.m. at the Globe of Science and Innovation. Places are limited, so for more information and to register go to: https://indico.cern.ch/e/coffee_machine.