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  • Sophie Arthur

Life Sciences Awardee 2020: Dr Cécile Martinat

Dr Cécile Martinat, of the Institute for Stem Cell Therapy and Exploration of Monogenic Diseases (I-Stem), France, has been chosen to receive a prestigious award celebrating the achievements of women in STEM. Dr Martinat will be honoured at a special event on Friday 6 November 2020, the sixth Suffrage Science awards celebration for women working in the Life Sciences.

The ‘leaky pipeline’ is a recurring metaphor for gender imbalance in STEM, highlighting the fact that many of the women who start in these fields do not stay long term. The UK Resource Centre (UKRC) guide shows that at GCSE level, the split of boys and girls is nearly 50:50 as you would expect as science is all but compulsory at this stage. But at A Level, higher education and into senior career positions, the proportion of women participating in STEM falls away, with only nine per cent of STEM professors being female (1). While women make up 45.7 per cent of the total science professional workforce, there are marked differences in representation of women in the chemical, biological and physical sciences (2). Overall, the pace of change will need to increase in coming years for the trend to move in a positive direction again.

On Friday 6 November 2020, 11 scientists and science communicators from across the world will officially receive their awards. The Suffrage Science awards, curated by the MRC London Institute of Medical Sciences, celebrate women in STEM subjects, and encourage others to enter and reach senior leadership roles.

The 11 awardees are chosen by the previous award holders for their scientific achievements and ability to inspire others. This scientific “relay” takes place every two years, and creates an inspiring network of women connected by their link to the scheme.

The awards themselves are hand-crafted items of jewellery created by art students from Central Saint Martins-UAL, who worked with scientists to design pieces inspired by research and by the Suffragette movement, from which the award scheme takes its name.

Professor Claire Rouguelle, of Paris Diderot University, nominated Dr Cécile Martinat. Prof Rouguelle said:

"Cécile is a great scientist. She conducts cutting edge research in basic science with strong therapeutic perspectives. She also takes leading roles in developing and structuring stem cell research in France and internationally, and promotes science and its communication to the general public. I admire her scientific qualities, but also for her tireless investment for the community, her generosity and humility. On top of it, she manages to balance an intense scientific career with her family life, being mother of 2 young boys. Cécile is thus an inspiring figure for women, and men, in science."

The Suffrage Science scheme was initiated by Professor Dame Amanda Fisher, Director of the MRC London Institute of Medical Sciences (LMS) in 2011. Professor Fisher said: “Now that the Life Sciences section of the Suffrage Science scheme is in its ninth year, these “heirloom” items of inspiring jewellery have helped to create a self-perpetuating network of talent and contacts to help others to succeed. This year’s awardees join a community of over 130 scientists. Since 2011, the awards have travelled from the UK, across Europe to the USA, Hong Kong and to Uganda, illustrating the international nature of science and engineering, and the global effort to improve the representation of women in STEM.”

This awards handover ceremony was scheduled for 20 March 2020, but postponed as a result of COVID-19. The award handover will now take place on Friday 6 November 2020, with winners announced over the coming weeks.

You can see the lineage of this and other awards within the Life Sciences branch here, and meet the other 2020 Life Sciences awardees here.


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