Science not silence: Ciné-ONU screening of Picture A Scientist

On 8 March 2022, Ciné-ONU screened Picture A Scientist, in partnership with the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and UN Women in Brussels, at Cinéma Galeries to mark International Women’s Day.

The film chronicles the groundswell of researchers who are writing a new chapter for women scientists.

Photo: Picture A
‘Picture A Scientist’

Biologist Nancy Hopkins, chemist Raychelle Burks, and geologist Jane Willenbring lead viewers on a journey deep into their own experiences in the sciences, ranging from brutal harassment to years of subtle slights. Along the way, from cramped laboratories to spectacular field stations, the audience encounters scientific luminaries – including social scientists, neuroscientists, and psychologists – who provide new perspectives on how to make science itself more diverse, equitable, and open to all.

The screening of the film also coincides with Women’s History Month celebrated during the month of March by the United Nations. The film emphasises the struggle for gender equality in scientific professions and it reinforces the efforts of the UN to achieve Sustainable Development Goal 5: Gender Equality. Globally, only 33 percent of researchers are women, and they are awarded less research funding than men, and are less likely to be promoted. In the private sector too, women are less present in company leadership and in technical roles in tech industries. These glaring under-representations limit female scientists globally and their ability to find inclusive, sustainable solutions to modern problems and build a better society for all.

The screening was followed by a panel discussion with:

Panel discussion for 'Picture A Scientist'.
Panel discussion for ‘Picture A Scientist’.

Rania Charkaoui, Biomedical Engineer and co-founder of WomInTech, Judith Litjens, Policy Officer at the COST Association, Laura Cassio, Senior Expert in the Office of the Director General of the Joint Research Centre of the European Commission, and Dagmar Schumacher, Director of the UN Women Brussels Office. The discussion was moderated by Caroline Petit from the UN’s Regional Information Centre (UNRIC). 

Powerful stories
Elena Kasko, UNFPA Brussels.

The panellists agreed that the film powerfully demonstrated the persistence of gender stereotypes and prejudice. In her opening remarks, Elena Kasko, Officer in Charge of UNFPA in Brussels, remarked that the women featured in the film “are very clever, very strong women who dared to be visible and to fight the system.”

Judith Litjens from the COST Association.
Judith Litjens from the COST Association.

Judith Litjens also agreed their stories were really compelling. “I was thinking that the issues that were raised are not new, we know of them, but the intensity of the message was overwhelming to me, you read them, but when you hear them it is a different story. It is so important to keep giving visibility to female scientists and also to convey this message that science benefits from diversity.”

On the Film

Speaking on the choice of film for International Women’s Day, Dagmar Schumacher emphasised that although it focused on science, it looks at a problem that is a global issue in so many other fields. “It is terrible to see what is happening in the science field, at the same time it is so encouraging to see how the women show resilience, how they took action and how they instil change. I’m really proud of all those women.”

Laura Cassio, EU Commission.
Laura Cassio, EU Commission.
Gender Equality in Science

The panellists made clear how passionate they are to raise awareness about gender equality and issues that affect women and girls around the world. Laura Cassio emphasised the benefits of having more women and girls in science. “Having the full participation of women in science means having more resources, more intelligence, and more talent to draw from”.

Rania Charkaoui, WomInTech
Rania Charkaoui, WomInTech

Also speaking on her passion for science, Rania Charkaoui recalled “I was always very interested in learning things in general. I wanted to have an impactful job. I wanted to go into a career where I could see the impact of my work on people’s day to day life”.

For Dagmar Schumacher, the journey to gender equality has seen progress and setbacks. “Where are we in the world on gender equality? There is lots of progress, and we are really happy about that, we see a lot of progress in the education field, we see a lot of progress in the health field. But we also see a snail’s pace on many other fronts. I think this is why we need International Women’s Day, but actually we need 365 days of International Women’s Days for the benefit of society.”

Dagmar Schumacher, UN Women Brussels.
Dagmar Schumacher, UN Women Brussels.
  • To watch the trailer for Picture A Scientist, click here.
  • For more information about the film, click here.
  • Follow us on Facebook and Twitter for more information on upcoming Cine ONU events.

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