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Women and sciences: an evening to promote parity in scientific studies

In the run-up to International Women’s Rights Day, the Foundation brought together ENS-PSL members (students, teachers, researchers), donors and high-school students for a round-table discussion aimed at identifying the obstacles to women’s access to science studies and possible solutions.

Moderated by Charlotte Jacquemot, Director of the Department of Cognitive Studies at the École normale supérieure, the discussions provided a better understanding of how and when gender stereotypes around science are formed, creating lifelong inequalities and impacting society in concrete ways. Elisabeth Bouchaud (physicist, actress and playwright), Thomas Bréda (economics researcher at PSE and CNRS), Inna Grinis (inflation strategist at Citadel) and Fabienne Rosenwald (maître conseillère en service extraordinaire at the Cour des Comptes) also debated solutions for increasing the representation of women in scientific sectors.

“Representation is an important lever,” explained Elisabeth Bouchaud. “Most women in science have been made invisible throughout history. Making role models visible enables girls to project themselves and concretely embark on a scientific career.”

Oriane Devigne, member of the Toutes en sciENS association, and Anne Christophe, Deputy Director of Sciences at ENS-PSL, concluded the event by testifying to the positive effects caused by the presence of more female students and teachers in certain science departments at the ENS.

The discussions also provided an opportunity to review the solutions put in place by the ENS to promote parity within the school, notably through “Femmes et Sciences”, a scholarship program supported by the ENS Foundation.

Indeed, in 2022, women accounted for less than 20% of admissions in certain scientific fields at the ENS. In response to this situation, the ENS and its Foundation have launched a scholarship program aimed at convincing female candidates that they have a place on the benches of this institution recognized worldwide for its excellence in mathematics, computer science and physics. Thanks to this program, female candidates admitted to the Concours Normalien Etudiant in these three departments receive a scholarship of 1,000 euros per month for their three years of study. ENS aims to achieve parity in admissions to its science courses by 2030.

“Right from their first year, the Women and sciences scholarships have demonstrated their impact on parity in our scientific fields: in 2023, the number of female applications to the Physics Concours Normalien Etudiant increased by 50%, and the department achieved its first ever parity graduating class,” says Anne Christophe.

All in all, 20 female students have benefited from the Women and sciences scholarships since the program began. Among them is Mélanie, a M1 Physics student:

“I entered the ENS in 2022 through the Concours Normalien Etudiant de Physique. During my first year at the school, not being a scholarship holder, I worked up to 7 hours a week to be able to finance my studies in Paris. The Women and sciences scholarship allows me to concentrate on my studies, giving me more time and energy to devote to them. What’s more, it will open up more possibilities for me as I continue my studies. For example, I’ll be able to apply for international internships which, without the scholarship, would be inaccessible,” she explains.

École normale supérieure will continue to be committed to these issues of parity, and has decided to dedicate a month to women in science every year, between February 11, International Day of Women and Girls in Science, and March 8, International Women’s Rights Day, to give them greater visibility, as well as to the various initiatives being carried out within the ENS community.

Read the brochure Women and Science