She's Got It 09:15 11 Feb 2021

Women in science. 11 Ukrainian women, whose discoveries changed the world

Did you know Ukraine has the share of women in science, almost twice as higher as the world's average? For the International Day of Women and Girls in Science, we talk about outstanding Ukrainian women and their discoveries, sometimes made despite everything.

For the sixth year in a row, the world celebrates a young but important holiday on February 11, International Day of Women and Girls in Science. The UN General Assembly adopted it in 2016 to ensure full and equal access to and participation in science for women and girls.

Women and Girls in Science Day should remind all of us that women play an important role in the scientific and technological community, and encourage women and girls to participate in science. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres stressed: "Let us ensure that every girl, wherever she is, has the opportunity to make her dreams come true, achieve prosperity and contribute to a sustainable future for all humankind."

According to current UNESCO data, women and girls are still much less represented in the scientific community than men: on average, only 30% of scientists worldwide are women. Numerous studies have shown that women in the fields of STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) publish fewer materials, receive less money for their research, and don't make more career progress than men.

Several reasons prevent women from believing in their abilities and thus limit their participation in research.

  • First, it's an ingrained view in society that science is a male field of activity, where members of the weaker sex are inappropriate and undesirable. For example, according to a 2015 study by the Gina Davis Institute for Gender in the Media, only 12 percent of female characters in film and television worked in science and technology.
  • Second, there's a widespread belief that a woman is less competent as a scientist.
  • Third, real "every-day" discrimination: reducing of wages, scientific recognition, and encouragement, especially at high levels.

However, gender programs in recent years are doing their job: more and more young women are choosing technical specialties and a path in science, the developments of women scientists have been discussed around the world.

жінки і дівчатка в науці карикатура

Anand Mahindra, the author of this picture on Twitter: "This week I was sitting with my grandson and I realized this. I congratulate every working woman and admit that their success required much more effort than for their husbands."

Ukrainian women have also never lagged behind world trends; we really have something to be proud of. Now Ukraine has 46% of women working in science, almost twice as many as the world average. Ukrainian researchers also complain much less about their gender bias than their foreign counterparts.

"Science is taking on a female face. Now women in science are being treated more liberally. I've already felt the positive changes in myself," physicist Halyna Klim says.

And mathematician Yuliia Bezvershenko notes: "Science should be popularized among women from school age. We need to show them the possibilities of engineering, programming, science. Having tried this, they won't resist the opportunity to choose this path if they feel such a capability."

Currently, Ukraine ranks 12th in the ranking of female scientists among 41 countries. Ukrainian women successfully work in various fields of science. Most scientists are in social sciences (65.8%), medical (65.2%), human (60.3%) sciences; technical sciences, 34.1%.

To support and honor talented scientists and encourage them to develop Ukrainian science, Ukraine introduced an award in 2018, as part of the global L'ORÉAL-UNESCO Program "For Women in Science." It's designed for young women, professionally engaged in research in STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) and who have an active position in science promotion.

We decided to talk about outstanding Ukrainian women who've changed and continue to change the world of science to show that girls can do anything.

Nataliia Polonska-Vasylenko, a historian

From the early 20th century until the end of her life in the 1970s, our first heroine studied the history and archeology of Ukraine, both in Ukraine and later in exile in Germany and the Czech Republic. In a historically troublesome time for Ukraine, she became one of the leading representatives of the state school in Ukrainian historiography, that is, she promoted the idea of ​​independence and continuity of the Ukrainian historical process. Nataliia Polonska-Vasylenko is the author of almost 200 scientific works on the history of Zaporizhzhia and Southern Ukraine, which remain relevant to this day.

Valentyna Radzymovska, a biologist

Валентина Радзимовська

One of the most prominent names in our history is Valentyna Radzymovska, a professor, doctor of medical and physiological sciences, founder of the Ukrainian school of physiologists and biochemists, and a public figure. The Soviet authorities repressed Valentyna Radzymovska for her political activities and participation in the Union for the Liberation of Ukraine in the 1930s. However, it didn't prevent her from becoming the author of more than 60 works on biochemistry, pathophysiology, pediatrics, psychoneurology, physiology, and phthisiology. Like the previous scientist in our article, she left Ukraine in 1945, emigrating first to Germany and then to the United States.

Radzymovska contributed hugely to the study of tuberculosis and its treatment in children.

Nina Morozhenko, a physicist

Ніна Мороженко

Although the sun is the closest star to us, it still hides many fascinating mysteries. Ukrainian astronomer, helio physicist, doctor of physic and mathematical sciences, author of 56 scientific works, Nina Morozhenko devoted her entire life to studying the structure of our guide light and the processes taking place on it. After all, everything happening on the Sun affects many areas of human activity. Without studying the sun, it's impossible to understand not only what the future holds for our civilization but also what is happening in space, i.e. on the distant stars the humanity is so eager to reach. Nina Morozhenko's scientific works on solar prominences were the first in the world and gave rise to scientific research by helio physicists from many countries. The Ukrainian researcher's significant contribution to the physics of the sun once again demonstrates that physics isn't a purely "male" science.

Nataliia Vynohrad, an epidemiologist

Наталія Виноград

Epidemiologist, professor, doctor of medical sciences, Nataliia Vynohrad manages the Department of Epidemiology of Lviv National Medical University. She's an expert of the World Health Organization in responding to epidemic threats and the Ministry of Health of Ukraine on epidemiology, an adviser to the Ministry of Emergencies of Ukraine on anti-epidemic protection and biosafety. Agree, you can't find a more relevant profession in 2020-2021. Once an ordinary girl from a village in the Khmelnytskyi region, and now the author of 305 scientific papers, and 8 copyright certificates for inventions and patents of Ukraine, proves that nothing is impossible for a girl who knows what she wants.

Nina Virchenko, a mathematician

Ніна Вірченко

Professor of the Department of Mathematical Analysis and Probability Theory, Doctor of Physic and Mathematical Sciences Nina Virchenko is one of the most famous Ukrainian mathematicians. She is the author of more than 500 scientific and methodological works, including 20 books published in Ukrainian, Russian, English, and Japanese. Nina Virchenko is recognized not only in Ukraine but also abroad; she's a member of the Australian, American, Belgian, Edinburgh, London mathematical societies. In the end, it's not surprising, because mathematics knows no boundaries and recognizes all the achievements, wherever you obtain them.

Nina Virchenko's fate wasn't easy: at 18 in 1948, she was sentenced to 10 years in the Gulag camps for preparing a "political conspiracy, revolt" and participating in the "Ukrainian-nationalist gang." Years in the camps didn't stop the future doctor from achieving her dreams. In 1964, she defended her Ph.D. and her Dr. habil. dissertation in Kyiv in 1988.

Ella Libanova, an economist

Елла Лібанова

Scientist in socioeconomics, demography, and labor economics, academician of the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine, Doctor of Economics, Professor, Honored Economist of Ukraine. Ella Libanova is an academician-secretary of the economics department of the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine and, by the way, the first and only female member of the presidium of the National Academy of Sciences for 102 years of its work. She teaches social statistics at the Faculty of Economics of the Taras Shevchenko National University of Kyiv; introduced a method for measuring human development at the region level, used by the State Statistics Service of Ukraine for annual calculations.

Nana Voitenko, a biologist

Нана Войтенко

Professor, Doctor of Biological Sciences, neurobiologist, head of the department of sensory signaling of the Bohomolets Institute of Physiology of NAS of Ukraine. Nana Voitenko has been researching pain for more than 20 years. What do we know about pain? For most people on Earth, pain is something they'd like to get rid of as soon as possible if they feel it. Nana Voitenko deals with the nature of pain, as it occurs and spreads in the human's central and peripheral nervous systems. In the laboratory, Voitenko and her colleagues managed to develop an experimental treatment that affects only those cells involved in pain syndromes. Besides, Nana Voitenko is actively promoting science: she's a lecturer at the "Days of Science" initiative, was a lecturer at TED-x Kyiv in 2013, and the organizer of the "Week of Knowledge about the Brain." Science is close, and it's accessible to everyone.

Olha Brovarets, a biophysicist

Ольга Броварець

Ukrainian biophysicist, Doctor of Physic and Mathematical Sciences, winner of the Scopus Awards Ukraine in the nomination "Best team of scientists who achieved significant scientific results without Western collaborations" and the President of Ukraine Award for Young Scientists, and a leading researcher in the Department of Molecular and Quantum Biophysics Institute of Molecular Biology and Genetics of the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine. Olha is the youngest doctor habilitatus in Ukraine; she became a doctor at 29. Olha is now 34 years old and she continues to study biophysics: her discoveries give an understanding of the mechanisms of cancer and many other diseases caused by mutations. It was Olha who calculated the pattern of mutations in DNA leading to cancer and many other diseases.

Maryna Viazovska, a mathematician

Марина В'язовська

Ukrainian scientist, doctor of natural sciences. Ukrainian mathematician Maryna Viazovska, who currently works at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, received the Salem Prize 2016, which is extremely prestigious for mathematicians. The commission awarded the prize to Maryna Viazovska for her world-class discovery. Ukrainian solved a problem that scientists have been working on for more than 400 years, i.e. packing spheres in 8-dimensional space, and co-authored the one in 24-dimensional space. Previously, the problem of packing spheres was solved only for spaces with three or fewer dimensions.

Mariia Bailiak, a biologist

Марія Байляк

Doctor of Biological Sciences, Associate Professor of Biochemistry and Biotechnology in Vasyl Stefanyk Precarpathian National University. Scientist Mariia Bailiak studies biochemistry and researches the influence of various plants and substances on the aging process. Mariia Bailiak's discoveries concern, for instance, the increase of stress resistance and the general condition of living organisms (and therefore, us and you, and it's good news: stress resistance doesn't hurt anyone), and anti-aging substances. Thanks to her intensive work, Mariia is in the Top 10 successful Ukrainian women scientists.

Yuliia Bezvershenko, a physicist

Юлія Безвершенко

Ukrainian scientist in theoretical physics, popularizer of science, public figure, Ph.D. of physic and mathematical sciences, Yuliia Bezvershenko is included in the list of TOP-20 Ukrainian women in STEM for 2018-2019. Yuliia deals with mathematical methods applied to the problems of dynamics of quantum systems in external fields and control of quantum systems. She is convinced and proves that one can practice theoretical physics with passion.

According to Yuliia, at one time she heard an important thing from her mentor: you can be yourself in any field! Therefore, one shouldn't be afraid of stereotypes and prejudices of others.

If you're a girl, a woman, no matter where, no matter how old you are, and your heart is in science, don't be afraid. Go there boldly. After all, nothing will stop a woman, ready to work and conduct scientific discoveries.


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