Women in science: standing on the shoulders of giants

11 February 2020 | Science communication

Daphne and MarinaWe feel lucky to work in a nurturing science environment led by leaders in the field of nutrition and cancer, where we are allowed to grow, develop and learn from the experts. We strive to make science more equitable for all.

Marina (right) – striving to be a role model

I have never thought of myself as a “woman/girl in science”, but that is what I have grown into, and I am extremely proud of that. I was attracted to science since my early high school years, which led me to studying for a bachelor’s degree and then a master’s (MSc) in my field of interest: nutrition, dietetics and public health. Being aware of the worldwide gender stereotype, that science is a male thing, I guess I was lucky; being a woman never crossed my mind as an issue for my ability to speak up as a scientist.

I began to wonder why such stereotypes never affected my career and I think it is high time to pay tribute to the reason. Ordinary women in science following their dreams towards extraordinary achievements inspired me to follow mine. This includes supervisors during my student dietetic placements, my MSc thesis, and now in my workplace. These mentors are trusted advisers to me, sometimes even years after we first met.

But I have to admit that it is not all about science for science. Being a girl in science gave me the opportunity to satisfy the restless traveller in me! Attending congresses to present my work has really become my thing the last few years. It is also always exciting to meet the authors of the papers I read and extremely motivating to communicate with other scientists and exchange ideas. But if you ask me the funniest thing about attending conferences, it’s spotting other attendees; board a flight during the European Society of Clinical Nutrition and Metabolism Congress, and half of the aircraft is holding a poster tube!

So, what have my experiences taught me? Find your role models, be inspired and learn from them; and then strive to be one!

Daphne (left) – scientist or superhero?

My experience as a woman in science has been wonderful. I have been fortunate enough to work among some leading female scientists who have been incredible sources of support and inspiration. However, being a woman in science has not always been easy. I am forever grateful to those who came before me, as it was their commitment to improving the system that has led to so many more opportunities for women in science today. My project supervisor during my master's degree, Dr Ana Rodriguez-Mateos, was someone who inspired my career path and helped me get where I am today.

We’ve always been told that we must ‘stand tall upon the shoulders of giants’, but those giants were women too. Just like superheroes; Wonder Woman and Captain Marvel are now getting their own movies – and more and more female scientists are leading labs and inspiring the next generation. Diversity must be omnipresent in science, so that all scientists can work together as a team. My ultimate goal is to encourage other women to share their passion for science so that breakthroughs and innovative ideas can be accomplished; ultimately for the benefit of society.

Marina Plyta, Daphne Katsikioti | 11 February 2020