L’Oréal Italia and the national commission for Unesco award 6 talented young people

Six scholarships worth 20,000 euros each were awarded to as many female researchers under 35, based on the recognized excellence of their projects

L’Oréal Italia announced today the six winners of the XXI Italian edition of the L’Oréal-Unesco award ‘For women and science’ in the presence of Anna Maria Bernini, Minister of Universities and Research. During the ceremony, Eugenia Maria Roccella, Minister for the Family, Birth Rate and Equal Opportunities, also spoke with a video message. Also in this edition, six scholarships worth 20,000 euros each were awarded to as many female researchers under 35, based on the recognized excellence of their projects in all fields of science and technology. The announcement of this edition has collected over 200 applications from all over Italy.

The jury, composed of a panel of distinguished Italian university professors and scientific experts and chaired by Professor Lucia Votano, affiliated research manager at the National Institute of Nuclear Physics, after a careful evaluation selected the six most deserving female researchers for their projects. Thanks to this scholarship, two of them will return after having given their contribution to institutes abroad.

Here they are: Francesca Berti, project ‘Innovative design of stents produced by additive manufacturing for congenital heart diseases’, Host Institute: Politecnico di Milano, department of chemistry, materials and chemical engineering ‘G. Natta’; Alessandra Biancolillo, project ‘Resilientgrain project, Development of advanced and non-destructive analytical methods for the characterization and traceability of ancient grains and evolutionary populations of grains and their derivative products’, host institution: University of L’Aquila; Alice Borghese, project ‘Exploring the most powerful magnets in the Universe’ – host institution: National Institute of Astrophysics (INAF): Astronomical Observatory of Rome (OAR); Gloria Delfanti, project ‘Cell therapy with Natural Killer T cells for the treatment of liver metastases from colorectal cancer’, host institution: San Raffaele hospital, Division of Immunology, Transplants and Infectious Diseases; Martina Fracchia project ‘High entropy oxides as sustainable and innovative electrocatalysts for the electrolysis reaction of water’, Host Institute: University of Pavia, Department of Chemistry In collaboration with: University of Milan, Department of Chemistry; Arianna Renzini, project ‘Unveiling the gravitational wave background: a new way to measure and characterize the background population of binary black holes with Ligo and Virgo, host institution: Milano Bicocca university.

Since 1998, the L’Oréal-Unesco ‘For Women in Science’ program has been committed to enabling an increasing number of female scientists to overcome barriers to career advancement and contribute to solving the great challenges of our times, for the benefit of everyone. Over 25 years, the program has supported more than 4,100 female researchers from over 110 countries, rewarding scientific excellence and inspiring generations of young women to pursue their careers. Five of these scientists, after winning the L’Oréal-Unesco prize, have been awarded the Nobel Prize: among them Emmanuelle Charpentier and Jennifer Doudna, winners of the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 2020.

Emmanuel Goulin, president and managing director of L’Oréal Italia, declared: “I am very proud to be able to award six brilliant young researchers who will contribute to scientific progress in our country once again this year. The L’Oréal-Unesco Award ‘For women and science’, now in its twenty-first edition, thus confirms itself as one of the Group’s most consolidated initiatives in Italy, because the world needs science and science needs of women”.

The awards event held today at the Museum of Science and Technology in Milan hosted speeches by Emmanuel Goulin, president and CEO of L’Oréal Italia, by Anna Maria Bernini, minister of University and Research, by Eugenia Maria Roccella, Minister for the Family, Birth Rate and Equal Opportunities, by Enrico Vicenti, general secretary of the national commission for UNESCO, by Ilaria Cinelli, biomedical engineer and expert member of the Aerospace Medical Association, by Arianna Traviglia, archaeologist, Senior Researcher Ccht Ca Foscari Italian Institute of Technology, Edwige Pezzulli, research fellow at the National Institute of Astrophysics and science popularizer. The event was moderated by Rai journalist Maria Soave.

A recent Ipsos research carried out for Save the Children and released at the beginning of the year shows that over half of Italian teenagers (54%) say they are interested and intrigued by scientific subjects, but in 2021 only 22% of young people chose a STEM course at university, because most girls believe that scientific subjects are “not suitable” for them. Yet, Italian girls think they can make a contribution to the most important challenges that society and science will have to face in the coming years: among these, that of the aging population (34% of adolescents think so), followed by from the production of sustainable energy (31%) and finally the reduction of polluting emissions from means of transport (27%). The desire to make a contribution and be part of the change can also be read between the lines of a growing figure (+15.74%), which concerns female enrollments in IT and ICT technology courses. However, the gender gap is always very present and is rooted, since the first cycles of education, in the stereotypes still widespread today, which would like girls to have little inclination towards scientific subjects and which block their talents in the bud.

In the ‘Gender gap report 2022’ of the World Economic Forum, out of 146 mapped countries, Italy maintains 63rd place, remaining below the European average by about 6 percentage points. A figure that takes into account gender differences in various areas: from economic participation to opportunities and the level of education, from health to political empowerment. Women continue to be under-represented, particularly in the fields of engineering (6.6% women versus 24.6% men) and in the ICT (technologies concerning integrated telecommunications systems, with 1.7% women versus 8.2% men ).

Negative data also as regards the coverage of top positions: in Italy only 15% of CEOs are women. And it is also Europe in general that struggles to attract girls into STEM education and, consequently, women into STEM jobs. Despite women outnumbering men as students and graduates at bachelor’s and master’s level, only 33% of STEM graduates in Europe are female and, worse still, it is estimated that by 2027 women will account for just 21% of jobs in the technology sector (source McKinsey Company. Women in tech: the best bet to solve Europe’s talent shortage – January 2023).