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A program to help highly talented young women work toward a career in the natural or exact sciences has been instituted by the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot. Its goal is to begin closing the gap between the number of male and female scientists in the highest ranks of academia.
The number of women and men completing graduate degrees (master's and doctorate) in the sciences is close to even - but in Israel, as in the rest of the world, relatively few women end up on the track to academic advancement, and their representation on the higher levels of academia is abysmally low.
A new nationwide initiative by the institute to help fill the ranks of outstanding women scientists has been established with the support of the Clore Foundation and S. Donald Sussman. This year, as part of the institute's Women in Science Program, 10 young women will receive Sara Lee Schupf Postdoctoral Awards.
Any woman who has completed a doctorate in an Israeli academic institution in one of the natural or exact sciences (e.g., physics, chemistry, mathematics) and who has been accepted to postdoctoral studies abroad is eligible to apply.
The awards will average about $20,000 a year and are meant to supplement scholarships received from foundations or host institutions, to assist women - particularly those with families - in coping with the added financial burden.
The two years or so that a postdoctoral researcher spends abroad is considered a critical step to career success, in which the up-and-coming scientist gains independence and is exposed to the international scientific community in which she must prove herself.
Yet this stage can be a bottleneck for women, especially as many have spouses and young children at this stage in their lives. Personal, financial and family considerations all conspire to keep these women from spending several years abroad. As a result, there is a relatively small number of women entering the academic track.
The Schupf Postdoctoral Awards aims to change that situation by offering women incentives - financial, but also social, personal and professional - to engage in postdoctoral research in leading labs around the world. The long-term goal of the program is to invest resources in women who plan to develop their scientific careers in Israel and to create a feminine leadership within the Israeli research community.
A special selection committee at the institute, headed by the president's adviser for the advancement of women in science, Prof. Hadassa Degani, will be evaluating the applications. The 10 women selected be will awarded the grant in October.
For more information, visit www.weizmann.ac.il/feinberg/WomenInScience.
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