Battling sexism in life sciences


Rory O'Neill

Battling sexism in life sciences

JaturunThakard /

The success of science in finding vaccines against COVID-19 underlines the need to make STEM fields more inclusive, Christina Pagel of University College London tells Rory O’Neill.

We have perhaps never appreciated the value of science, particularly the life sciences, so much. While the global COVID-19 vaccine rollout remains beset by inequalities, the fact that we have multiple World Health Organization-approved vaccines for the disease, just a year-and-a-half after the SARS-CoV-2 virus’ genome was first sequenced, is a monumental achievement. That the genome was made publicly available in January 2020, mere weeks after the outbreak was first discovered, is something of a landmark itself.

How much better could we be doing if global science took advantage of the full pool of talent available? The problem of sexism in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) subjects is well known, and isn’t limited to a particular field, region, or level of academia. Women are vastly under-represented in the numbers of scientific researchers worldwide, with STEM research being one of many male-dominated professions.

Women who have reached the top of STEM fields have played a key role in the COVID-19 pandemic. Since 2020, Christina Pagel, professor of operational research at University College London, has become a familiar sight to UK-based viewers on television screens and on Twitter threads. Pagel was appointed director of the UCL Clinical Operational Research Unit in 2017, and focuses on how mathematics can help inform better decision-making in healthcare settings.

Sexism, life sciences, COVID-19, STEM, WHO, vaccine, Christina Pagel, technology, gender equality, pandemic