Interview with Carine Jaafar: One of the recipients of the 2017 L’Oréal – UNESCO For Women in Science Award

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Carine Jaafar talks to BellBeirut about being selected as one of the recipients of the 2017 L’Oréal – UNESCO For Women in Science Levant and Egypt award.

1- Did you face any challenges as a woman scientist in the Arab world? If so, what were they and how did you overcome them?

Women in the Arab world are commonly challenged by the social and cultural discriminatory beliefs that women belong to their houses and they are meant to look after their husbands and kids. This discrimination became so deeply rooted that it became unconsciously applied, yielding less contribution of women in career life. However, personally I was blessed with parents who made sure to raise me up in the best possible way. While others were indifferent to educate their daughters, my parents were keen to give us the best academic education in one of the best schools and the best universities in Lebanon.

They were careful to enrich us with the strongest weapon, education, which made us strong and independent and enabled us from facing all the challenges in life. An educated woman is never imprisoned by the restrictions imposed by society. My sister and I were able to achieve our goals in life, we are great mothers and we are very successful in our career life, all of this because of the support and protection our parents offered.

2- What advice would you give to young women who want to follow a similar path?

The part of the passion that I would like to share with the younger generation of women researchers is that knowledge has no limits, no borders, no race, no nationality and no age, it is extended and is gained every day and every second. They just have to believe in their potentials and work hard to achieve their goals. They can prove themselves as successful women in society and at the same time be successful mothers in their homes.

3- How did the L’Oréal – UNESCO “For Women in Science” program impact your career?

To be selected as one of the 2017 fellows of the L’Oréal – UNESCO For Women in Science Levant and Egypt program has added a lot of confidence, value and devotion on both the personal and academic levels. This selection had encouraged me, inspired me and made me feel distinguished. It was a great honor, a pleasure and a rewarding experience added to my journey as a woman in Science.
At the career level, it granted me a great opportunity to travel abroad to gain experience and get trained to highly advanced techniques used in leading-edge research in science to improve and develop my project.

4- How can women scientists play a more efficient role in the field? (What kind of resources/tools/program do they lack access to?)

Moving abroad to work in advanced labs and getting involved in leading-edge research is one of the roadblocks that face young women scientists and prevent them from moving on to the next stage. Many women are hesitant to relocate their families, therefore, they are faced with the challenge of traveling abroad to pursue their post doctorate studies. The initiative by L’Oreal UNESCO for women in science program greatly supports women, offering them an opportunity to gain experience from abroad but not necessarily live there for a long period of time. More programs should offer such supportive initiatives to help women achieve more.

In addition, it is difficult for most women to establish balance between research and cfamily responsibilities, therefore women in science are challenged by a huge competition compared to men who are able afford longer time in research and attend more conferences and become more qualified for full-time research positions. As for women they tend to take less demanding part-time research or teaching positions. That’s why fewer women professors are usually employed as professors in universities worldwide. Universities should boost the number of female professors recruited, and funding institutions should be encouraged to offer women research grants that support women in both their science careers and motherhood.

5- Who is the person that influenced you the most in your career?

I’m influenced by the Nobel Laureate, May-Britt Moser, who won the Nobel prize in 2014 for her discovery of cells that constitute a positioning system in the brain. She is my idol and I look forward to work hard on my ambitions with the hope of becoming a successful scientist like her.