'Women need a push to go into science'
Israel Academy of Sciences president says female interest in science dwindles in higher grades for social reasons.
Israeli scientists receive awards Photo: National Academy of Sciences
Girls are interested in science when they are in elementary school but interest
dwindles in higher grades, apparently for social and not cognitive reasons, the
Knesset Science and Technology Committee was told this week.
Academy of Sciences president Prof. Ruth Arnon said that there were very few
other girls studying science when she studied in the Gymnasia Herzliya high
Even in the world, she said, only two women scientists have
received a Nobel Prize in physics and four in chemistry – including one Israeli,
Prof. Ada Yonath, in chemistry.
Arnon suggested that competition
with boys may be to blame, and it could be ameliorated by having gender-
separated classes in the sciences when schools are mixed. She bemoaned the fact
that the academy she heads was “not a good example” because even though she was
president, few other senior women scientists have been appointed to the
MK Rachel Adatto (Kadima), who is a gynecologist by profession,
noted that there are many more women in the lower ranks of medicine, but it
would take time until they reach senior administrative positions.
Vigdor, director of the Council for Higher Education, said that next week, a new
council will be sworn in, and that its powerful planning and budgeting committee
will act to encourage more women to do postdoctoral work and seek jobs when they
return from abroad. This accomplishment is critical to moving ahead in
MK Ronit Tirosh (Kadima), who heads the Knesset Science and
Technology Committee, concluded that there is “hope for gender equality” and
that steps are being made in the right direction. She asked all the universities
to appoint paid advisers on the status of women to promote
Meanwhile, the US National Academy of Science’s Kavli Frontiers of
Science program launched a new symposium series with its counterpart in Israel.
The academies initiated the partnership this year following Arnon’s visit to the
US to strengthen scientific and technological collaboration between researchers
in the two countries.
“Scientific research is expanding across multiple
disciplines, and collaborations are crossing national boundaries,” said US
academy president Ralph Cicerone. “The Kavli Frontiers of Science symposia
provide opportunities for young scientists from many fields to learn about one
another’s work, and we are excited by the creation of new international networks
and the potential for interdisciplinary partnerships that the Israeli-American
program will bring.”
Scientific collaborations between Israeli and
American scientists have been strong ever since the establishment of the State
of Israel, Arnon said.
The symposia series are designed for outstanding
early career scientists – typically less than 45 years of age – to share ideas
across disciplines and to build national and international networks that will
serve them as they advance in their careers.
Unlike a discipline-specific
scientific meeting, Kavli Frontiers of Science symposia provide many
opportunities to explore ideas and techniques from a variety of disparate
fields. The first symposium took place in 1989; the joint program with Israel is
the latest in a set of bilateral symposia that have connected young US
scientists with their counterparts in China, England, France, Germany, India,
Indonesia and Japan.
More than 4,500 researchers have attended a Kavli
Frontiers of Science symposium. Among these alumni, 136 have been elected to the
US academy and 10 have received the Nobel Prize.
The US-Israel symposia
will take place biennially, alternating between the US and Israel, and will be
attended by 70 distinguished young researchers representing universities,
government laboratories and private industry. The first symposium is expected to
take place in 2013 in Irvine, California.