On the occasion of the Week of Women in Science 2024, the Italian Ambassador to the United States, Mariangela Zappia, hosted the first edition of the Elena Lucrezia Cornaro Piscopia International Award at Villa Firenze, honoring Italian women scientists working in the US, in the presence of Monica Bertagnolli, Director of the National Institute of Health.
“STEM disciplines are pivotal in today’s societal transformation, however they encounter a persistent challenge which is the gender gap” highlighted the Ambassador, noting that “only 33% of the world’s researchers are women”. Emphasizing the centrality of the challenge within the framework of the partnership between Italy and the US in the scientific and technological field, and in the year in which Italy holds the presidency of the G7, the Ambassador noted that “The underrepresentation of women in STEM is widely recognized as a loss of valuable talent, perspectives, and ideas, hindering the overall progress of our countries”.
Following the Ambassador’s opening remarks, representatives from the three institutions promoting the award who also spoke included: Fabio Finotti, Director of the Italian Cultural Institute of New York, Annalisa Oboe, Director of the Elena Cornaro University Center at the University of Padua, and Cinzia Zuffada, President of ISSNAF.
The Elena Lucrezia Cornaro Piscopia International Award is named after the first woman in the modern world who received a doctoral degree in Padua, Italy in 1678. The award celebrates the contribution of women scientists and scholars to research, innovation, and the development of a scientific culture based on equality. Today Elena Lucrezia Cornaro Piscopia is portrayed as an extraordinary example of intellectual power and as an early symbol of a society’s recognition of a woman’s capacity to leave a mark in subjects traditionally precluded to women, such as theology, philosophy, and mathematics.
The award was presented to Paola Arlotta, Golub Family Professor and Chair of the Department of Stem Cell and Regenerative Biology at Harvard, and Elisa Bertino, Samuel D. Conte Professor of Computer Sciences at Purdue University.
The award ceremony was followed by a panel discussion between the two awardees and Jeanne Marrazzo, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the National Institute of Health, and Dava Sobel, author and former New York Times science reporter. Moderated by Stefania Spatti, US correspondent Class CNBC, the conversation highlighted the stories of the four panelists as a source of inspiration and encouragement for young girls to pursue studies and careers in science.
The Week of Women and Girls in Science has been built around the celebration of February 11th, the International Day of Women and Girls in Science, since 2023.
For this year’s Week, under the umbrella of Women in Science Diplomacy (WiSDA), the Embassies of Italy, France, and Germany in the US, in collaboration with the Embassy of Argentina, Children’s National Research Institute of Children’s National Hospital, George Washington University, Rockefeller University, and Meridian, have promoted a series of initiatives promoting equal access for women to science, raising awareness on the topic, and looking at equal study and career opportunities in the field of science and science diplomacy.
In addition to the Elena Lucrezia Cornaro Piscopia International Award at Villa Firenze, other events include:
- Monday, February 5th: Breakfast organized by Meridian with the Assistant Secretary at the Department of State for the Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs (OES), Jennifer R. Littlejohn, on the role of women in STEM disciplines and scientific diplomacy;
- Tuesday, February 6th: Day of celebration for Women and Girls in Science at Children’s National, in collaboration with George Washington University, to highlight the experiences of women at Children’s National that led them to pursue a STEM career;
- Wednesday, February 7th: Conversation at the German Embassy on the implications of Artificial Intelligence for freedom of research, and ethical boundaries of this technology, with Dr. Patricia Gruber, Chief Scientific Advisor to the Secretary of State, Department of State;
- Thursday, February 8th: Panel Discussion at the French Embassy on the underrepresentation of women in the tech field, with the founder and CEO of Women in Tech Global, Ayumi Moore Aoki, CEO of Ewosmart, Arlande Joerger-Aroukoun, and CEO of Humetrix, Bettina Experton, who will share their experience and the challenges they have encountered and overcome in their respective careers;
- Friday, February 9th: Mentoring Session on Science Diplomacy at Rockefeller University in New York, with Dr. Mandë Holford, Professor at Hunter College CUNY with scientific appointments at the American Museum of Natural History and Weill Cornell Medicine, moderated by Laura Berneking and Anita Gola, on behalf of Women in Science at Rockefeller (WiSer).