Celebrating the International Day of Women and Girls in Science with Potenti’Elle en Science

In order to honour this annual UN occasion, HBA Suisse Romande ran, for the first time, a special virtual event entitled Potenti’Elle en Science. With girls and young women as the target audience, the aim was to inspire the next generation to consider following relevant study paths to take up a career in science. On 11 February, we celebrated the International Day of Women and Girls in Science, as established by the UN General Assembly in 2015. The aim of this annual event is multifold; to raise awareness of the issue, to celebrate female excellence in science and to remind the world that gender equality in the domain of scientific endeavour must evolve to address the global challenges of today and tomorrow. With girls and young women as the target audience, the aim was to inspire the next generation to consider following relevant study paths to take up a career in science. This was done by showcasing the large diversity of possible scientific careers available and giving the young audience members direct access to a panel of accomplished women pursuing careers in this domain.

Potenti’Elle en Science was organised by two female scientists; Filipa Texeira and Imogen Marouillat from HBA Suisse Romande, who, despite having followed different paths, nonetheless share a passion for communicating science and developing people. Why is it even necessary to hold events like Potenti’Elle en Science in 2021? Well, numerous research studies show that there is still a significant gap between men and women in science and technology careers today, despite young men and women having equal opportunities to access these subjects at school and university. So, how can we help young women to consider choosing a career in science? How can we inform them of the different possibilities available? How do we advise and reassure them of their potential in STEM subjects and how do we promote their selection at school and university? These are the questions that this learning event aimed to address.

Potenti’Elle en Science welcomed 100 participants for a two-hour extravaganza of practical advice, inspiring stories, lively discussion and honest feedback. Introductory presentations from Isabelle Jeangoudoux (HBA Suisse Romande) on the role of the HBA and Lowri Angharad Rees (UN Women’s Programme), kicked off the evening, followed by professor Celine Riera of Cedars- Sinai Medical Center, discussing her personal career journey into academic research and teaching. Participants then had the opportunity to participate in breakout sessions with 10 inspiring, successful women role-models who answered their career and study questions. Proceedings were concluded with a roundtable discussion of the speakers, taking questions from the floor.

Post-event participant feedback has been excellent and indicates that this educational event achieved its desired impact. Here’s what some of the attendees had to say:

  • "I was very inspired by the presentations and as the sessions progressed"
  • "I felt like wings were growing on my back"
  • "I really liked that it demonstrated there isn’t only one way to succeed and flourish in science but a multitude" 

Following the encouraging feedback from sponsors, speakers and participants, we intend to hold it again next year.

Dr. Zoe Lawson, volunteer HBA Suisse Romande