Females hold up "half the sky" in China's scientific research

(Xinhua) 08:34, March 09, 2022

BEIJING, March 8 (Xinhua) -- China has been taking action to foster the career growth of women in science, an area where they are still underrepresented worldwide.

Yu Xinwei, a national political advisor, delivered a proposal during the ongoing annual session of the 13th National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, the top political advisory body, suggesting that the "she" workforce in scientific innovation should be strengthened.

Yu, once a researcher on new techniques in producing fine chemicals, called for more female-oriented policies that help women in science break the "glass ceiling."

A UNESCO survey in 2019 showed that only an average of 29.3 percent of researchers in science worldwide are females.

In China, about 40 percent of human resources in science and technology are those of the fair sex, and they accounted for more than half in Internet and biomedical areas, according to China Association for Science and Technology.

Wang Qihui, a researcher of the Institute of Microbiology under the Chinese Academy of Sciences, co-hosted a forum on Tuesday, International Women's Day, in Beijing to discuss opportunities and challenges of female scientists.

"It has still been a pyramid structure for women in science," said Wang. "There is no shortage of female science workers, but we tend to see fewer associate professors and professors."

In June last year, the Ministry of Science and Technology and other organizations issued a document to redress the imbalance. It proposed to set up female scientists-led projects in key national research plans and relax age restrictions for women in task and fund application.

The institutions are encouraged to establish a "return" fund to help pregnant and breastfeeding women come back to science work, according to the document.

More and more female scientists in China have broken the "glass ceiling." Wang Yaping, the first woman who worked in China's space station, has become one of the most inspiring figures for the young generation.

Beate Trankmann, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Resident Representative in China, told Xinhua that Wang overcame numerous challenges as a girl from a rural family in Shandong Province to finally realize her dream, making her a role model that can indeed inspire greater participation from women in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM).

Han Xiqiu, China's first female chief scientist of ocean scientific expeditions, is another example. "It's difficult to say, as a girl, we have unique advantages, but girls can do what boys can," said Han. She led a team to tap the resource potential of the deep sea, a job once confined to men only.

Wang Yingjun, a professor of material with the South China University of Technology, expanded her lab from one with a dozen square meters in the 1980s to a national engineering center with over 20,000 square meters.

She still remembered the origin of her first sum of scientific research funds, about 300 U.S. dollars given by her husband. Now her team has obtained tens of millions of dollars from the national funds.

Huawei, China's telecommunication giant, opened a page about women in Huawei on its official website. In the page heading is a statement titled "Science for her, science by her and science with her."

Huawei selected 10 outstanding women in the company, among whom are a 5G lady and an engineer who ramped up digital skills in Kenya.

"The careers and achievements of female scientists alone are a testament to the fact that women can be equally successful in industries that have traditionally been associated with men," said Trankmann. 

(Web editor: Xia Peiyao, Liang Jun)


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