Science & Lipstick

89d4a73bf79365422f2b044f6e131b36It’s the stories that draw my attention to the science and health sections of the New York Times.

But what caught my eye this week was a full-page advertisement.

The French cosmetics company L’Oréal honors women scientists and the ad reads:

Science Needs Women.

The company teamed up with the United Nations’ educational, scientific and cultural organization (UNESCO) to recognize women scientists from around the world, and have been doing so for 15 years.

Some scientists found ways to raise drought-resistant plants while others examine how bacteria spread.

Biologists, chemists, physicists and all stripes of scientists have been chosen from North America to New Zealand to receive the award.

Five women scientists each year are recognized with a $100,000 prize.

I wondered what kind of a dent that would make in L’Oréal’s pocketbook and discovered the company is the world’s largest cosmetics firm.

Profits totaled 2.2 billion Euros in 2010, according to Wikipedia.

That’s a lot of lipstick—making the $500,000 prize money for women scientists each year a drop in the bucket.

At least women scientists get recognition. In fact, the winners are referred to as laureates.

Laureate, by the way, means award-winner, named for the laurel wreath given as an honor at such occasions as earning a university degree.

And that brings to mind the Nobel prize, which also designates it winners as laureates.

Men have received the lion’s share of Nobel prizes, which carry a much greater cash value at about one million dollars each.

Some 43 women received Nobel awards out of the 862 recipients: that’s nearly 5 percent, or one female for every 20 prizes given.

And it’s not like you can make the excuse that there are fewer women in the pool of scientists to choose from when it comes to the Nobel.

One researcher crunched the numbers for the statistics publication Significance and found that—despite more women entering science in the 1970s—prizes continue to be awarded to men, signaling a growing (not a shrinking) gender gap.

Here’s the link to the L’Oréal-UNESCO award:

And here’s a link to the statistics story and the NPR story that referenced it:

Photo from the L’Oreal Foundation


About Cynthia Coleman Emery

Professor and researcher at Portland State University who studies science communication, particularly issues that impact American Indians. Dr. Coleman is an enrolled citizen of the Osage Nation.
This entry was posted in authenticity, framing, journalism, science, science communication, Uncategorized, writing and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Science & Lipstick

  1. Russ L says:

    Makes me wonder about the gender makeup of the Nobel committee.


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