Jakarta. International beauty care company L'Oréal has launched a global campaign titled #ChangeTheNumbers in an effort to remedy the fact that only 30 percent of scientific researchers in the world are women.
The campaign manifesto lists several points considered essential in empowering younger women to develop careers in science and ensuring that there is equal opportunity and exposure for them in the field.
"L'Oréal believes the world needs science and science needs women. The purpose of this global campaign is to change the public perspective of women in science and to attract more women to choose becoming researchers," L'Oréal Indonesia head of communications Melanie Masriel said on Thursday (06/10).
Two inspiring Indonesian female researchers were invited to speak during a discussion about the lack of women in science, hosted by the company.
Ines Atmosukarto, chief executive and managing director of Australian vaccine research and development firm Lipotek Canberra, and Fenny M. Dwivany, associate professor in molecular biology at the Bandung Institute of Technology (ITB), both mothers and recipients of the L'Oréal-Unesco for Women in Science International Fellowship in 2004 and 2007, respectively.
The two women said being a researcher is not for the weak, but that the hard work pays off with great rewards.
"We want to open the eyes of the younger generation to show that there are lots of rewards for being a researcher, so it's not only about the challenges," Ines said.
One of the rewards, she added, was the opportunity to see the world and being exposed to different cultures while studying or attending forums, and the ability of also providing that to her children.
"We can open the minds of our next generation to see the world and question everything and become more curious and creative," Ines said.
By doing so, she believes future generations would be able to help Indonesia move towards its goal of becoming a developed manufacturing country.
In terms of challenges, Fenny said researchers in Indonesia mostly face problems in infrastructure and funding.
"Indonesia is such a biodiverse country and as a biologist, it's sad to see these problems. But if we're not the ones researching this, then who will?" the associate professor said.
According to Fenny, being a researcher helps women to become more perseverant, detail-oriented and tough, especially with the ability to multitask as mothers and researchers.
"We have an advantage of having a different point of view from a male perspective, which could help fill the gap," she added.
While society still judges them against the norm of women having to be stay-at-home mothers, they accredit their support systems for being understanding and helping them break through that barrier while accomplishing their goals.
"I think we were both fortunate enough to have support systems that encouraged us to further our research and education. And I believe that having a support system is essential for researchers," Ines said.
Other than having great support systems, both women said the key to being successful in this field is to be constantly curios, while satisfaction is something dangerous in research.
"To be a scientist you must have fire in your belly, because research is all about working with failures and that should be the fuel to keep you going," Ines said.
The women believe that despite the difficulties, Indonesian girls should not be afraid of pursuing their dreams of becoming scientists.
"There is a culture in our society that makes us afraid of challenges. The potential in Indonesia is high, but there are not enough opportunities," Fenny said.
According to her, there are many Indonesian researchers studying abroad, but coming home is the challenge.
"When we as researchers return to Indonesia, we don't have fields to work in. We can't go home because there are not enough job opportunities," she added.
Ines, on the other hand, suggested that the government must provide incentives for businesses to develop research and development units to support innovation in the country, and in turn, create more job opportunities.
All parties involved must work together in order to increase the number of female researchers and promote gender equality in science across the globe.
"What we have now, our lifestyle, is the result of research done before. The regeneration [of science] is important to create innovations for the sake of posterity," Ines said.
She also believes that Indonesia needs to move away from a male-focused perspective, which should be taught to children from a young age.
"We need to empower young girls to make them believe that they are just as capable as boys – we have to break through the glass ceiling," she said.
Another way this could be changed, Fenny added, is through celebrating the accomplishments of what female scientists have achieved, rather than the constant focus on celebrities.