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Women Three Times Less Likely than Men to Become Scientists, L'Oreal Foundation Finds

International report unveils gender inequality trends in science professions resulting from stereotypes and prejudice; foundation encourages greater support of women in research

NEW YORK, March 19, 2014 /PRNewswire/ -- If negative gender stereotypes around science didn't exist today, the world would benefit from 300,000 additional doctors in science annually, according to a report released today by the L'Oreal Foundation, which explores the vast underrepresentation of women in scientific professions. Data from 14 countries was compiled by the Boston Consulting Group to determine at which points in their educational and career paths women veer away from science. The report was released in conjunction with a ceremony in Paris to honor five female scientists with the L'Oreal-UNESCO For Women in Science Award for their exceptional talent, deep commitment to her profession and courage in a field largely dominated by men.

Representation gap of women in science arises as early as Bachelor level and continues throughout the scientific career

Root of gender gap
The report underscores a basic fact that sharply contrasts with a widespread prejudice regarding women and science: In high school, with little or no choice about the subjects they study, females perform as well as males in science courses. Yet, following graduation – when young adults can decide for themselves what profession to pursue – the number of women entering scientific careers drastically declines. This wide divide stems, the report concludes, from perpetuated gender stereotypes that leave young women believing that science is not a viable career path. As a result, fewer women than men go on to obtain doctorates in science and to occupy leading positions in laboratories, universities and research institutions. In fact, less than three percent of Nobel Prizes in the sciences have been awarded to women since its inception in 1901.

According to the findings, the leaky pipeline of women entering scientific professions arises as early as Bachelor level.  Only 32 percent of undergraduate degrees in science are earned by women, and this proportion drops to 30 percent for Master's degrees and 25 percent for doctorates. A mere one in 10 women (11 percent) holds the highest academic positions in scientific disciplines. Progress is far too slow, with the number of female researchers only improving by 12 percent (up three points from 26 to 29 percent) in the last decade.

"Founded by a scientist more than 100 years ago, L'Oreal has always been a business driven by science. Innovation is our way of life and that means we depend on the contributions women make to the field. In fact, 70 percent of L'Oreal's Research and Innovation global workforce are women, and they drive growth, innovation and discovery across all facets of this company," says Sara Ravella, Chief Executive Officer of the L'Oreal Foundation. "If the world is to meet the scientific challenges of the 21st century, we must challenge deeply-rooted stereotypes and develop a stronger, more robust pipeline of young scientists to help us innovate every single day. Over the last 16 years, we have joined forces with UNESCO to do exactly that."

For Women in Science
Today in Paris, the L'Oreal-UNESCO For Women in Science Awards will recognize female Laureates from each world region (Africa and the Arab States, Asia-Pacific, Europe, Latin America, and North America) and 15 International Fellows for their achievements in science. Throughout its 16-year history, the program has recognized more than 2,000 women, including two Nobel Prize recipients, in 110 countries.

The 2014 North American recipient is Dr. Laurie Glimcher, a worldwide pioneer and leader in the field of immunology, who is being honored for discovering key factors involved in controlling immune response in allergies and in autoimmune, infectious and malignant diseases. The very first woman to be named Dean of Weill Cornell Medical College in New York, Dr. Glimcher is paving the way for the development of new treatments for allergies, asthma, multiple sclerosis, childhood diabetes and cancer.

Commitment to Female Scientists in the U.S.
L'Oreal USA hopes to improve the status of women in science and break science-based gender stereotypes through increased mentorship and promotion of all scientific fields through the USA Fellowships For Women in Science program, which seeks to raise awareness of the contribution of women to the sciences and identify exceptional women researchers to serve as role models for younger generations. As part of the program, winners have the opportunity to connect with and mentor past recipients and fellows.

The official call for applications for the 2014 USA Fellowships For Women in Science program is March 24, 2014. This year, the program will also be evaluating potential candidates on their commitment to mentorship and community involvement. For more information, visit

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The L'Oreal Foundation is committed to two main causes, that of science and that of beauty care as a means to helping the most vulnerable members of society. Based on values of excellence, generosity and creativity, science is at the core of the Foundation's commitments, most particularly its commitment to supporting women researchers through its For Women in Science program, a worldwide initiative in partnership with UNESCO. As well, rooted in the belief that beauty care is an essential need met by passionate professionals skilled in creating human relationships, the Foundation has launched several programs anchored by a vision of beauty as a path toward a fairer and more generous society. The Foundation is committed to assisting the economically disadvantaged and those suffering from physical and mental ailments in regaining their sense of self-esteem through beauty care and training in beauty care professions.  

The Boston Consulting Group (BCG) is a global management consulting firm and the world's leading advisor on business strategy. We partner with clients from the private, public, and not-for-profit sectors in all regions to identify their highest-value opportunities, address their most critical challenges, and transform their enterprises. Our customized approach combines deep insight into the dynamics of companies and markets with close collaboration at all levels of the client organization. This ensures that our clients achieve sustainable competitive advantage, build more capable organizations, and secure lasting results. Founded in 1963, BCG is a private company with 81 offices in 45 countries.

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SOURCE The L'Oreal Foundation

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