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New fellowship to boost female talent

If children are asked to draw a professor, both boys and girls draw a male figure. New research from Yale University shows that even adult scientists have a similar bias, considering male scientists more competent and hireable than their female counterparts. Addressing this gender bias, aiming to boost the careers of female academics, the first Dutch L’Oréal-UNESCO ‘For Women in Science’ Fellowship will be awarded to a talented female scientist on 11 October.

Judith Rietjens wins fellowship

The fellowship is awarded to health scientist Judith Rietjens (34, Erasmus University Rotterdam), because of her outstanding interdisciplinary research of the use of palliative sedation (a treatment that entails the use of sedating drugs to relieve unbearable suffering for patients approaching death). She currently works at the Department of Public Health at the Erasmus Medical Centre Rotterdam and at the End-of-life Care Research Group at Ghent University & Vrije Universiteit Brussel.

The fellowship allows Rietjens to create a theoretical framework that will be able to explain the differences in the use of palliative sedation in diverse countries. She will compare empirical research from the Netherlands, Belgium, the UK and the US. Rietjens: “I am driven by the desire to improve end-of-life care for patients. The goal of my research is to contribute to a more evidence based and culturally sensitive health care and decision making process for patients approaching death.” With this research, she hopes to give direction to health policy making. She also expects the fellowship to be helpful when applying for other prestigious grants, such as a VIDI-grant.

Residential Stay at NIAS

The annual ‘For Women in Science’ fellowship of 25.000 euro offers women the opportunity to focus on writing scientific articles in the stimulating academic environment of NIAS in Wassenaar. Judith Rietjens will stay at NIAS during the academic year 2013/14.

Female professors

The number of female professors (14,8%) in the Netherlands is Europe’s lowest. This is all the more remarkable, since in Western countries, including the Netherlands, women have surpassed men in attaining a university degree: 40% of 25-34 year old women have a degree, versus 33% of men of the same age. Nevertheless, even though women increasingly attain the highest academic levels, they are still under-represented at the top levels of scientific research. The Dutch ‘For Women in Science’ programme aims at promoting the academic careers of female talent, and in this way, contribute to increasing the number of Dutch female professors.

International Programme ‘For Women in Science’

L’Oréal en UNESCO have launched the international L’Oréal-UNESCO ‘For Women in Science’ programme in 1998. Since then, more than 1.200 female scientists from 83 countries have been encouraged to pursue their scientific vocations. Two of the laureates, Elizabeth Blackburn and Ada Yonath, have won a Nobel prize. UNESCO stimulates equal opportunities and diversity, particularly in the sciences, around the world.

Award Ceremony

On 11 October the first Dutch ‘For Women in Science’ Fellowship will be awarded to Judith Rietjens by the National UNESCO Commission, L’Oréal Nederland en het Netherlands Institute for Advanced Study (NIAS). The award ceremony will take place during the ‘Pump your Career’ event in the Beurs van Berlage, Amsterdam, organised by the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO) (NWO) en het Landelijk Netwerk Vrouwelijke Hoogleraren (LNVH).