L'Oreal USA Convenes Congressional Briefing on Issues Affecting Women in Science

New Research Reveals Gender-Based Barriers Driving Female Scientists from the Field

Sep 09, 2010, 10:24 ET from L'Oreal USA

NEW YORK, Sept. 9 /PRNewswire/ -- New national research reveals that the vast majority -- a whopping 98 percent -- of female scientists know a female colleague who left the field because she could not overcome the professional barriers she encountered. The study exposes a multitude of obstacles facing female scientists today which contribute to the significant underrepresentation of women in important scientific fields. To explore the issues affecting the advancement of women in science and the public policy changes that might address them, L'Oreal USA, in partnership with DISCOVER magazine, will convene world-renowned experts to brief Congress on the subject.

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Congressional briefing explores the issues and opportunities

The congressional briefing, For Women in Science: 21st Century Policy & Politics, sponsored by Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson, D-Texas, will be held on Sept. 23, 2010, in Washington, D.C. A panel of distinguished experts will explore whether state and federal public policy are promoting or hindering the advancement of female scientists; how the broader application of Title IX has influenced women pursuing science education and careers; and whether the emphasis on gender diversity in the workplace has become mainstream in scientific disciplines. The briefing will also consider the opportunities for government, the private sector and academia to address the barriers facing women in scientific disciplines.

"The contributions of female scientists are critical to U.S. advancements in science and economic growth," said Frederic Roze, President and Chief Executive Officer of L'Oreal USA. "By convening this congressional briefing, L'Oreal USA hopes to renew national dialogue about breaking barriers and forging new paths for women in science."

The congressional briefing will feature the following panelists:

  • Russlynn Ali, Assistant Secretary, Office of Civil Rights, U.S. Department of Education
  • Dr. Shirley Malcom, Head of Education and Human Resources, American Association for Advancement of Science (AAAS)
  • Pr. Joan Steitz, Sterling Professor of Molecular Biophysics and Biochemistry, Yale University
  • Pr. Sara Seager, Ellen Swallow Richards Professor of Planetary Science, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  • Sheril Kirshenbaum, Author of Unscientific America and Science Blogger for Discovermagazine.com (Moderator)


New research offers compelling insights

The panel will also address results from the newly-released survey of 1,300 female and male scientists, conducted by AAAS and commissioned by L'Oreal USA, on the barriers women encounter in pursuit of scientific careers. Survey respondents included male and female scientists who hold doctoral degrees and are registered users of Science online, including members of AAAS. The national research revealed significant new insights on the extent to which barriers affect men and women differently and the best means to overcome these obstacles.

  • Female scientists face unique, gender-based barriers in career advancement:
    • 61 percent of female scientists who participated in the study have personally struggled balancing life and career
    • More than half of female respondents (52 percent) have experienced gender bias
    • More than one in three female scientists who participated in the survey (37 percent) faced barriers in having/raising children  
    • Half of all female respondents (50 percent) cited challenges with child care support as a major barrier for individuals working in the science field


  • Insurmountable barriers are driving female scientists from the field:
    • Nearly all women who participated in the survey (98 percent) know a female colleague who left the science field because she encountered barriers to her professional success
    • Balancing life and career and having/raising children were cited as the top two reasons why female colleagues left their science careers
    • Female respondents cited gender biases as the reason why female colleagues left the field almost twice as frequently as male colleagues (47 percent of females vs. 24 percent of males)


  • Female scientists are making significant personal sacrifices to achieve professional goals:
    • Females respondents were less likely to be married or in a long-term relationship than men (78 percent of females vs. 91 percent of males)
    • Female respondents were much less likely to have children than their male counterparts who participated in the survey (53 percent of females vs. 77 percent of males)


"These research findings confirm that there is still a great deal of work to be done to minimize the barriers facing women in scientific disciplines," said Roze. "We believe that government, academia and the private sector all have an obligation to identify meaningful solutions that ensure future generations of women face far fewer obstacles in pursuing scientific careers."

L'Oreal USA's commitment to women in science

The national research and congressional briefing are supported by L'Oreal USA's For Women in Science program, which provides grants for the advancement of women in science and aims to address the issues related to the underrepresentation of women in the science fields. Following the briefing, L'Oreal will host a ceremony to award $300,000 in L'Oreal USA For Women in Science Fellowship grants to five postdoctoral female scientists, providing them with the resources to continue their groundbreaking research. Since 2004, L'Oreal USA has awarded more than $1 million in fellowship grants to 35 Fellows.

The L'Oreal USA Fellowships For Women in Science is a national extension of the global L'Oreal – UNESCO For Women in Science program, which since 1998 has awarded Laureate prizes to 62 distinguished women scientists from 28 countries and 864 international fellowship grants to young women researchers from 93 countries. National For Women in Science Fellowship programs are now present in 37 countries.

For more information, please visit www.lorealusa.com/forwomeninscience  and on Facebook at the  L'Oreal For Women in Science Facebook page.


L'Oreal USA, headquartered in New York City, with 2009 sales of over $4.5 billion and over 8,755 employees, is a wholly-owned subsidiary of L'Oreal SA, the world's leading beauty company. In addition to corporate headquarters in New York, L'Oreal USA has Research and Development, Manufacturing and Distribution facilities across seven states in the U.S., including New Jersey, Kentucky, Arkansas, Illinois, Ohio, Colorado, and Texas.

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The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) is the world's largest general scientific society, and publisher of the journal, Science (www.sciencemag.org) as well as Science Translational Medicine (www.sciencetranslationalmedicine.org) and Science Signaling (www.sciencesignaling.org). AAAS was founded in 1848, and includes some 262 affiliated societies and academies of science, serving 10 million individuals. Science has the largest paid circulation of any peer-reviewed general science journal in the world, with an estimated total readership of 1 million. The non-profit AAAS (www.aaas.org) is open to all and fulfills its mission to "advance science and serve society" through initiatives in science policy; international programs; science education; and more. For the latest research news, log onto EurekAlert!, www.eurekalert.org, the premier science-news Web site, a service of AAAS.


Maureen O'Connell